News

    Africa's "Community School" Movement Brings Education to Rural Areas

    They’re inexpensive, community-based, and have helped change Africa’s educational landscape. Community schools began as an alternative to public schools in poor rural areas about 15 years ago. Today, they’re educating hundreds of thousands of children who otherwise would never have had access to education.

    Yolande Miller-Grandvaux is a senior educational advisor with the US Agency for International Development specializing in African educational issues.

    She told English to Africa reporter William Eagle how a typical community school looked when the movement began: “It was often one room with a literate person in the village who would receive just a little bit of training in literacy in their maternal language and teach kids two or three hours a day.”

    A typical school day might last three hours to allow the students time to fetch wood and water and do other chores:

    Miller-Grandvaux says “[On] a typical day, children would go to school bringing their own water and their own chair or desk to the school room. They would spend three or four hours learning language arts, math and a little bit science. Often, they would [go to school on Saturday or Sunday; but took the market day off] -- the regular school calendar was not appropriate for them [It was adapted to meet the needs of the children who have to farm the family’s field and do household chores]. “

    Parents got increasingly involved and formed active parent-teacher associations: “Parents would come sometime during the day, and check to make sure that the [teachers] and children were in school [learning and teaching]. That was something that had never been seen before,“ says Miller-Grandvaux.

    “As a result, attendance became very regular. Illiterate parents would check to see if their kids had done their homework, [thus] providing quite an incentive and motivation to learn…. We saw parents who were empowered enough and proud enough to go to a district inspector and say, ‘Please send us a teacher’ or, ‘We don’t have textbooks; we’ve collected money, but they are not available on the market. Please help us.’ They were ready to collaborate with the educational authorities […to ask the educational authorities for services, and make their voices heard].  In turn, it made the authorities more accountable to the communities they were serving]. It was a new way of collaborating.”

    As time passed, the movement has become more sophisticated. Parents are demanding a more rigorous curriculum so their children can have the same opportunities as those in public schools. As a result, teachers have been hired who give instruction outside their maternal languages -- in French or English. Many instructors, who now come from urban areas,  require cash and a  place to stay. Old methods of payment – with bags of millet, rice, or promises of free labor for working the teacher’s land – are no longer applicable.

    Donors, including USAID, offer training to communities in how to finance and manage the schools. Local communities and government officials have also begun cooperating more closely. Today, the ministries of education in many countries pay for community school teachers (although Miller-Grandvaux say this has also diminished the influence of the instructors).

    Ethiopia, Mali, Zambia, Malawi and Guinea have tried to incorporate community schools into the public system – by, for example, allowing the students to take national exams when they end primary school.

    How successful have the community schools been? Miller-Grandvaux says these schools often have better graduation rates than public schools. Some parents have asked for their children to be taken out of public schools and put in the alternative ones.

    She says difficulties still remain: “It is hard for communities who do not get enough support from the government to sustain their schools. The community [may be able to] afford to pay for one teacher or two teachers. But they cannot afford to pay for a third teacher year after year. So we see recruitment taking place every other year or every three years. Communities who are poor cannot afford these schools – so there is an equity question. And what do HIV / AIDS-affected children and their parents who can not afford to pay teachers and schools do?”

    Guaranteeing the success of the schools also requires greater cooperation from ministries of education, NGOs, donors and PTAs, but when that happens, sometimes mandates and responsibilities overlap and tensions grow.

    Yet the movement is thriving. Miller-Grandvaux says the schools were once considered to be “discount” or “second hand” and were often not even included in national statistics. Today, they’ve spread beyond Mali to Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.

    Let us know what you think of community schools -- and of other stories on our web site. Send your views to AFRICA@VOANEWS.COM,  and include your phone number. Or, call us here in Washington,DC at (202) 205-9942. We want to hear what you have to say !

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.