Bringing the School to the Children
Shortening the Path to EFA (Education Notes)
Recent education planning initiatives in West and Central Africa show that the path to EFA may be shortened considerably by reconsidering the way basic education is delivered in isolated rural communities. Since independence, education systems have been expanding rapidly and are now serving most of the easy-to-reach population. For progress to continue, the focus must be shifted toward the sparsely populated areas, which means adjusting the type of schools used, and building them close to where children live. The resulting analysis gives a much more complete picture of how difficult it can be for a child in a rural community to complete the entire primary cycle.
- Distance to school cannot be measured only by physical distance, but must take into consideration cultural, time and natural/physical barriers.
- Enrollment drops off dramatically when children, particularly girls, are asked to attend school in a village other than their own. In rural Chad, when the distance to school is greater than 1 km, enrollment rates are negligible. Bringing schools closer to children can significantly reduce uneven education coverage.
- Simple GIS technology can provide valuable information previously unavailable to education planners.
- All children should have access to the complete primary cycle; smaller one and two-teacher rural schools can be effective for areas with small numbers of students.
- Cross-sectoral support will need to be provided so that education planners gain access to geo-referenced population data.
- Teacher education programs must be redesigned to make the rural school model possible, including courses in multi-grade teaching.
- Sufficient support must be available to ensure timely supply of materials and training opportunities in the rural multi-grade context.