3 ways to bring children back to school in Central African Republic
How GPE’s accelerated funding has made a difference
The second in a series of two blogs about how the Central African Republic has rebuilt its basic education system following the crisis that began in December 2012
September 30, 2015 by Ye Ra Kim, UNICEF|
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This is the second in a series of two blogs about how the Central African Republic has rebuilt its basic education system following the crisis that began in December 2012, with accelerated funding from the Global Partnership for Education.

In my previous blog post I briefly outlined the challenges encountered in carrying out GPE’s accelerated funding program in the Central African Republic (CAR). For the program to be successful, it was important to explore as many creative options as possible while taking into account the country context during the ongoing conflict. Here are the three main strategies put in place to ensure successful program implementation.  

1. Providing a long-term solution to replace straw hut schools with modern hangars

More than 50 of the 247 schools targeted by the program were “straw hut” schools made of locally available materials such as mud and branches. As these schools were inherently fragile, many of them were completely destroyed during the conflict, and simply restoring the straw huts would not provide lasting classrooms for students.

Replacing the straw huts by constructing a solid school building would not only exceed the budget but also require a significant length of time to complete the work. Intense discussions took place between the Ministry of Education, UNICEF and the implementing partners to come up with a solution to this challenge.

Finally, everyone agreed on the idea of building “modern hangars”, which consists of building a hangar with sheet metal roofs and a solid foundation in line with government construction regulations. While the hangar would quickly provide temporary classrooms that are stronger than the straw huts, it would also allow the communities to transform the hangar into solid classrooms later on by simply adding brick walls on the foundation.

In order to clearly convey this idea to the communities and enhance their capacities for the future work, the implementing partners were strongly encouraged to involve community members in building the hangars.

Some of the children I met under some of these hangars were happy to have more space and light in the new classroom as compared to the previous straw huts. Parents also felt empowered that they could contribute to building more solid classrooms for their children in the near future.   

2. Supporting teachers and parents with teachers stipends during catch-up classes  

The provision of catch-up classes was important for two reasons: first, children who had been out of school during the conflict would need special sessions to refresh their knowledge, and secondly, such classes would serve as an important transit point between the crisis and the upcoming new school year by bringing students back to the classroom, and by providing a regular routine and schedule to facilitate the transition.

Although many parents welcomed the idea of catch-up classes, paying school fees was a huge financial burden for parents who were impoverished during the conflict. In fact, the conflict made everyone’s life very hard and the situation was not any better for teachers, especially for community teachers.

In CAR, ‘community teachers’ or ‘parent-teachers’ are identified and paid by local communities to provide basic education to children. Coming from the same communities, they are especially common in remote villages where it is difficult to deploy qualified teachers from Bangui who are trained and paid by the government.

The community teachers stayed in schools during the crisis and ensured children’s basic education throughout this difficult time. The program provided a small stipend to community teachers as a form of compensation for ensuring the catch-up classes, thereby reducing some of the financial burden that both parents and teachers were experiencing.

This was highly successful. Teachers were motivated to teach classes again and parents were encouraged to send children back to school. The assessment test conducted at the end of the catch-up classes showed that many children effectively learned the content with an overall pass rate of 82%.

3. Improving information sharing with monthly newsletters

The ongoing crisis had seriously disrupted the functioning of the ministry. Therefore, it was crucial that a mechanism for timely information sharing be put in place to keep all stakeholders informed of the progress made and demonstrate that the ministry was taking the lead in restoring education activities.

Monthly newsletters, highlighting major developments and featuring interviews helped to meet this need. It was also a means to ensure the visibility of the ministry and GPE while the program was being carried out. The newsletters were drafted by UNICEF and edited with feedback from the ministry.

Once published, the electronic version of the newsletters was systematically shared with ministry officials, donors supporting the education sector in CAR, and both national and global humanitarian networks.

Given the limited use of the internet outside of the capital Bangui, printed copies of some editions were delivered directly to local level ministry officials and school headmasters. In particular, the newsletters received a very positive review for reporting vivid voices from the field through interviews with children, parents, teachers and NGO partners involved in the program.

Following the accelerated funding program which ended in June 2015, CAR is currently overseeing a three-year education program funded by GPE to support the transition phase from emergency to development. In the new program, the practice of publishing periodic newsletters for timely information sharing will be enforced through a systematic distribution of the printed copies to the ministry officials in all targeted zones. 

(See an example of CAR’s GPE accelerated funding newsletter available in French)

Although the accelerated funding program came to an end in CAR, I hope our experience here will provide good examples for other countries in similar situations.

For more information on the GPE’s accelerated funding in CAR, please contact:

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Comments

I have read the article attentively. This is a very nice article in question of contributing to education. If the children don't come back to school, it won't be helpful to increase the rate of education in Central Africa. So the children must back to school again. I think if the government of Central Africa takes necessary initiatives, the children will come back to school again.

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