What started as a simple town hall meeting with local parents in 2009 has turned into a full-fledged partnership between GOA and school management committees, parents and leaders in the global village to improve the quality and accessibility of education. We are currently supporting secondary and primary schools in western Kenya, eastern Kenya, western Uganda, Cambodia and Tibet. For instance, one of our projects helped 1,200 children in Cambodia to get from a state of no formal education to a place where they had a school roof over their heads with talented local teachers to educate. Their parents share in their children’s exuberance as they’re now receiving a formal education. And it only costed us $15,000 to make it happen.
PREMISE: Schools in developing countries often lack the facilities and support they need to maintain the quality of education children deserve. Where quality of education suffers, illiteracy runs rampant. Illiteracy limits the ability of adults to provide for their families. In 2010, economic conditions kept over 40 million African children from attending primary school. Globally, it’s estimated that 75 million children – 65% or more being girls – have no opportunity to attend primary school. One in three children in Africa that are enrolled in school drop out of primary education. For socially disadvantaged groups such as indigenous or rural communities, impoverished urban dwellers, AIDS victims, orphans or the disabled, access to education is especially difficult. The UN estimates that four out of five children who do not go to school live in rural regions.
- Safety: Rural regions in particular lack comprehensive primary school networks. Children in rural regions often have to walk extremely long distances just to attend school. Many girls are not allowed to attend schools some distance away as parents are concerned about their safety.
- Poorly equipped: Many schools are poorly equipped. They lack textbooks and teaching materials, and when these are available, they are often as outdated as the furnishings or facilities. Crumbling brick walls, collapsing roofs and cracking foundations are all unsafe areas to conduct school activities, but remain the norm in developing areas. Many schools have no funding to cover overheads such as water, electricity (if available) or transport for pupils.
- Expensive: In countries/areas in which school fees have been abolished enrollment rates have risen remarkably. In some areas, however, primary school comes with associated costs and fees–that of tuition fees, uniform or learning material fees, transportation to/from school, or all of the above. Many families in developing countries cannot afford school fees, preventing their young ones from attending.
- Reliance on children to earn income: Numerous families rely on the income their children contribute. According to estimates done by the International Labor Organization (ILO), some 166 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 years are forced to work – often up to 16 hours a day. One in four children in sub-Saharan Africa and one in five children in Asia have to work. The short-term benefits (or nature of survival) to have children stay at home to help with “chores” or income-generating activities outweigh the long-term investment in education.
- Teachers & curriculum: Teachers’ working conditions are unacceptable in many developing countries. Many teachers have to teach multiple shifts each day in classes with very high student populations all with inadequate pay. Many teachers are also poorly trained and ill-prepared for what awaits them in schools. This results to low-quality teaching. The curricula are overloaded with subjects and do not meet the learning needs of the children, and convey distorted or stereotypical images of female and male social role models. Too little account is taken of cultural and regional factors. Teaching times and curricula are too little geared to the children’s actual day-to-day reality. Group work, independent learning, critical thought and problem-solving, the use of new technologies and the promotion of life skills are not sufficiently promoted or provided.
- Illiteracy: Based on estimates, the lack of access to, and often poor quality of, the education systems in developing countries means that some 30% to 50% of those who leave school after four to six years of primary education are neither literate nor numerate. Around 10 % of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are classed as illiterate. Worldwide, around 775 million adults and young people over the age of 15 cannot read or write – just under two thirds of them being women. Between 1970 and 2006, illiteracy rates dropped from 37% to 16% worldwide, but on account of population growth the absolute number of those who cannot read or write has continued to rise in many regions. 98% of those who cannot read or write live in developing countries.
- Gender roles: In many countries, traditional role patterns stop parents enrolling girls in school. The stronger the cultural preference for boys in a particular country or region, the greater the gender disparities in the educational sector, for instance in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and in South and West Asia.
- Conflict & war: Many children are prevented from going to school on account of crises and wars. The majority of people who are forced to flee armed conflicts are women and children. In many countries where civil war is raging or has had an impact, the majority of schools have been destroyed.
- Inadequate budgets: In most developing countries, the budgets allocated for primary education are too low to meet requirements and to achieve the goal of universal compulsory school attendance. Bad governance, high staff turnover, inefficient use of funding, corruption and lack of management and organizational skills are other obstacles to the universal provision of education in t he global village.
Global Outreach Alliance is pushing to raise the quality and accessibility of education for children attending partnering schools under the guidelines and supervision of our in-country teams (e.g. GOA-Kenya, GOA-Uganda, etc.). In 2010 we established an ongoing project to support local educational initiatives in the global village–it’s known as our School Support & Construction Project. We research and implement programs appropriate to location, provide needful resources and materials for schools, partner with locals to construct classrooms or facilities to better equip students/teachers with high quality educational services, and assist in facilitating community-parent-teacher interaction to better serve the educational needs of students.
Before any partnership or project is formed, GOA discusses with locals (in a town hall-type setting) the current situation in depth. We discuss what’s going well, and then discuss the challenges/needs (or opportunities for development). From there, we will prioritize the opportunities for development (see example below). In all cases, we insist that local ownership and involvement are prerequisite to instigate any project. That is to say, we first wish to know what the locals will be able to contribute independent of our support. Ownership and involvement on a local level is key to achieving meaningful results, long-term results. For instance, if the need is security and the objective is to provide a fence/gate for a school to ensure that thieves and creeps are kept out in order to protect children and teachers, we will first see what our local partners (i.e. the local parents and SMCs) will provide. Oftentimes, they will be generous in providing, for example, trees for timber for use of poles, tools for digging/cutting, man power to dig pits for poles, sand and ballast for the gate, etc. From there, we will meet them in the middle to accomplish the desired objective–no shortcoming due to lack of resources is a problem when we’re in this together. Lastly, we will design our annual expeditions in conjunction with project goals. We will hire local contractors and construction workers (providing employment and offering skilled labor) to work with our teams of volunteers to assist in implementation or construction projects (lowering overall project costs, allowing us to do more good on a small budget).
-Fence & gate
-Watchmen (security guards)
-Latrines (toilets) & hand washing stations
-Kitchen (with a sustainable food programs, not handout food programs)
-Wells for water (drinking, crops, etc.)
3.) Quality of Education
-Learning materials (desks, chalk boards, etc.)
-Library (including shelving for books and learning materials)
-Computer Labs (if needed)
-Physical fitness (e.g. playing field and goals for football or netball)
4.) Faculty (Teacher) Support