Up until now, education has been the forgotten element of international days. It has now been put straight as for the very first time the 24th of January will be celebrated as the International Education Day. On this occasion, Aide et Action has put together a special programme, to be discovered on our website from 21 to 25 January 2018.
There are International Days for the planet, against impoverishment, hunger, for animal protection, for teachers, against AIDS or leprosy. In short, there are all kinds of International Days. Perhaps even too many, is sometimes heard ... Despite all those, education was the forgotten element of International Days. The record has now been set straight because last 3rd December the United Nations decided to make January 24th International Education Day. It is out of the question for the international organization to add yet another international day to the long list of those that already exist. No, the United Nations has officially wished to acknowledge the importance of education in the build-up of the 2030 Agenda and to reassert the crucial role of education for peace in a world where the number of people in conflict is increasing.
This sudden reversal is explained as follows: education has not always played a major role on the international scene. Not until only a few years ago (between 2010 and 2016) did donor countries see education as a development priority and they drastically reduced international aid allocated to it. With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015, things have changed dramatically. Not only has education become a development goal in its own right, but it has been especially dedicated as "a gold thread", or a leitmotif that links all SDGs and helps build a fairer and more united world. Education has therefore taken a growing place and is now seen by the most important heads of state as a top priority and urgency: the many speeches in favor of education and the large amounts of money allocated in February 2018 during the Refinancing Conference of Global Partnership for Education are clear proof of this. But efforts must not stop there.
In this sense, the creation of an International Education Day constitutes an acknowledgment of the importance of education in establishing resilient and sustainable societies, but it is above all a necessary and salutary reminder to leaders of state, politicians, economists, international organizations, and the general public that mobilization for education must continue and magnify. Because, for the time being, the challenges remain enormous: 263 million children do not go to school and 617 million do not know how to read a simple sentence even after several years on school benches. To achieve free quality education for all, it is estimated that there is currently a deficit of 39 billion euros per year and a lack of nearly 69 million teachers. At present, if funding does not increase, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved in 2030 and millions of children, who remain among the most vulnerable people, will be left behind again.
To meet these challenges, Aide et Action, an international NGO with 35 years of experience in education, is conducting more than 80 projects in around 20 countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe, including France. Founded above all on the values of freedom, respect, solidarity, equity and integrity, these projects are developed in partnership with local populations who are best able to provide solutions to their problems.
From early childhood education to vocational training for young adults, through the development of innovative educational projects, teacher training or the creation of school materials, we support more than 2 million people to facilitate lifelong learning and thus promote social and professional integration of the most vulnerable people. Migrant populations in India, illiterate women groups in Burkina Faso, or ethnic minorities in Vietnam are communities that we support on a daily basis.
To mark the importance of this first ever International Education Day, and to remind you how essential our call-up to all is in favour of quality education for all, Aide et Action proposes from January 21 to 25, 2018 a series of exclusive articles dedicated to education in general and to our concrete actions in particular. Discover our programmes, testimonials from our beneficiaries and our vision of the challenges we still face in achieving quality education for all everywhere around the world. As you will see in our reports, access to education changes lives and the future of thousands of children every day. Together, we can make sure that no one is left behind.
In order to deal with the isolation of some young people that live in remote areas in India, Aide et Action has set up a mobile library system. Our teams go directly into villages to promote education among communities and to give them access to essential educational materials.
The Kanha Tiger Reserve, which is located in the state of Madhya Pradesh in central India, is isolated and difficult to reach the area. Young people who live there are often far away from educational structures and are put at a disadvantage. To overcome this isolation, Aide et Action teams travel to villages to promote education within communities through a mobile library system. Thanks to illustrated and colorful books, sessions in reading, story-telling, and folk songs are organized to encourage community members, both children and adults, to become more involved. This is an innovative and effective approach.
Role-plays and stories make learning a joyful experience in which children from local tribes gain mastery of the language of instruction at school while learning to value their own mother tongue and culture too. This way they dare to express themselves without fear. This project has increased the number of school enrollments, the level of retention and the overall skills level of children (especially girls) in this region. These days, children, parents, and teachers ensure together the smooth running of schools. Their enthusiasm has generated the support of the larger community, local authorities, government agencies, and other partners.
Since 2017, Aide et Action has been bringing electricity to primary schools in West Africa: Senegal, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea. By doing this we are improving the learning conditions for children as well as the teaching conditions for teachers.
"Before, our school didn’t have any light and when it rained, we had to stop classes because it was too dark. Nowadays we can work any time. In addition, we can take small lamps home to learn lessons in the evening because we do not have electricity at home.” Aurelle is in 5th grade at Ahovo A state primary school in the municipality of Avrankou, Benin. His words reflect the reality of going to school in West Africa where very few schools in rural areas have electricity. For example, in Senegal, the electricity installation rate at schools is estimated at 33%; with large disparities between rural and urban areas. Running classes is therefore restricted to the availability of sunlight. Sometimes, at certain times of the day, the classrooms are dark and, in case of bad weather, classes must even be suspended. In fact, throughout the year, the quota of hours required for learning each school subject is not reached.
The project "A Light for Africa" (ALFA) consists of providing, on the one hand, solar energy and computer equipment in beneficiary schools and, and on the other, rechargeable solar lamps to school children to take home so they can do their homework in the evening when it is dark. This has been tested in Benin, Ivory Coast, Guinea and Senegal. The results of ALFA were tangible: teaching and learning conditions improved, as did the quality of education in general. So the project has been extended to Burkina Faso and could be considered for other countries in West Africa.
ALFA opens up new perspectives for teachers, students and communities.
Thanks to the provision of computer equipment and the computer training that accompany the installation of electricity in schools, teachers can use the Internet. This way, a wealth of information becomes available to them giving them the opportunity to do research to support and enhance their teaching practices.
With electricity available at schools, classrooms can also be used after school hours. Teachers have abandoned oil lamps to prepare their educational support in the evening. In addition, refresher courses for students who have difficulty in certain subjects can now be held after the regular school day.
With solar lighting, the schools have taken on a new dimension within communities. Schools with electricity are no longer just dedicated to school children and their teachers. At the end of the school day, adults take the children’s spots on the school benches and take literacy classes. The school has also become a place where the community can meet.
The ALFA project holds a real added value which is recognized by all beneficiaries involved (pupils, teachers and communities). Improving the quality of teaching and learning is evident. And the computer literacy component provides additional motivation for both students and their teachers. Many of them did not know how to start a computer, but now they are doing research on the Internet and the teachers can show educational programs to their students on the computer.
Implementing the ALFA project costs 6,820USD per school. Any financial partnership, sponsor or donor can commit to one or more schools. The main donors of the project are currently: Club Med Foundation, ETHIK Investment, Dans le Noir and A Light For Africa. The technical partners are Station Energy (Senegal) and Village Solaire Africain.
ALFA in Benin
In Benin, the state primary schools of Bokovi Tokomey A, Hahamè (municipality of Adjarra), Ahovo A and Kotan (municipality of Avrankou) are beneficiaries of the project. 12 classrooms and 4 school principals have received solar power and computer equipment.
"I am very happy with the lamps and the computer. Before, when it was raining, we could not see well what was on the board when writing lessons and even to read. Now, there is always light. We do the exercises here after school, before going home. In addition, I will also learn to work on the computer. " says Amidath, in 5th grade at the state Primary School of Hahame.
The provision of electricity in classrooms has helped to improve learning and teaching conditions and is already having a positive impact on school results. Out of the 84 students (41 of them girls) who presented for the Certificate of Primary Studies at the June session, 69 students (of which 33 girls) were admitted, representing a success rate of 82.14% (47.82% for the girls). These results show an improvement of more than 20%.
Teachers have been trained in using the computer equipment and now introduce schoolchildren to working on the computer one hour per week. For the principal, the computer facilitates administrative management of the school (for example, entering letters, saving documents, etc.)
Finally, the ALFA project has also allowed local craftsmen to be trained on the maintenance and upkeep of solar and computer equipment.
ALFA in Senegal
In Senegal, the ALFA project started in November 2017. It has been implemented in 7 schools in the Ziguinchor region. 820 students and 40 teachers are direct beneficiaries. With solar lighting, teachers now organize tutoring classes for students with difficulties. In addition, literacy classes are offered to adults in the community.
ALFA in Burkina Faso
In Burkina Faso, the project was tested at Hornogo School, which has 6 classes, 284 students (of which 143 girls) and 8 teachers. Thanks to solar energy, the teachers are holding support classes for 5th grade students with learning difficulties, particularly in French and mathematics. School materials (notebooks, pens, chalks, sponges, rulers, squares, a compass and a large format protractor) were also provided.
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