In Guinea, renovated schools and school meals are enhancing learning

Guinea’s strategy for limiting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its education system is bearing fruit. The country is digitizing learning, building and rehabilitating classrooms, distributing school meals, collecting reliable data, and ensuring synergy with the actions of its partners.

April 26, 2022 by GPE Secretariat
5 minutes read
Children playing in front of their classroom in Guinea. Credit: UNICEF Guinea
Children playing in front of their classroom in Guinea.

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and many countries are still implementing initiatives to limit its impact on student learning.

The US$7 million in COVID-19 accelerated funding provided by GPE to Guinea in 2020 enabled the country to implement actions to ensure continuity of learning during the lockdown period and the safe reopening of schools.

Continuing learning despite the health crisis

In Guinea, the limitations of an education system based exclusively on face-to-face learning were highlighted during the period when schools were closed. Only a small number of children in urban areas had access to online learning resources. To ensure the continuity of education in the event of school closure, the government of Guinea launched the Learning passport initiative.

This platform is intended to provide access to education for millions of children who face obstacles to learning because of poverty, discrimination, conflict, climate-related disasters, or epidemics such as COVID-19. It ensures the continuity of education in the event that schools are forced to close because of crises, and will continue to be an online learning resource even after the pandemic has ended.

The Ministry of Pre-University Education and Literacy (MEPU-A) has received IT equipment to support its efforts to gather statistical data and ensure the continuity of learning.

There are also plans to distribute tablets and computer accessories to vulnerable students and their teachers in marginalized rural communities, so that they may access online learning content.

Rehabilitated infrastructure encourages school attendance

The quality of school infrastructure can affect student performance. To create a conducive learning environment while ensuring that students enjoy the time spent in the classroom, the GPE-supported program has begun the rehabilitation of 35 educational institutions: 20 Community Education Centers; 10 primary schools; and 5 lower secondary schools. In addition, 57 wells are under construction and 45 water points are being repaired.

Supervisors working with regional entities in charge of school infrastructure and facilities have been ensuring quality control of the renovations.

However, new school buildings do not always serve as sufficient incentives for learning.

Example of one of the school buildings before and after its rehabilitation. Primary school of Hongo Bouro. Credit: UNICEF Guinea
Example of one of the school buildings before and after its rehabilitation. Primary school of Hongo Bouro.

School canteens to support student learning

The provision of school meals is a crucial step. As the World Food Programme (WFP) points out in its report State of School Feeding Worldwide 2020: "Rigorous studies and systematic reviews have shown that the provision of school meals can improve children’s education, as well as their physical and psychosocial health.”

This is one of the reasons why the GPE-funded program has prioritized support for school canteens to encourage children to go back to school and provide an enabling environment for learning.

Between January and July 2021, 300 school canteens under the direct management of the MEPU-A distributed daily school meals to 49,369 students.

Students at COYAH/ KOUNSITA primary school eat a meal at school- June 2021. Credit: M. Mazboudi
Students at COYAH/ KOUNSITA primary school eat a meal at school- June 2021.
M. Mazboudi

According to UNICEF, each term, every school with a school canteen has received between 9 and 15 sacks of rice, a 20-liter can of groundnut oil, half a bag of salt, and one sack of potatoes:

“One school meal per day can mean not only better nutrition and better health, but also enhanced access to education and improved learning outcomes. It also provides a strong incentive for parents to send their children to school regularly, as the school canteen also helps us reach those children who had already dropped out of school,” notes Aboubacar Camara, principal of the Bonfet primary school, a beneficiary of the program.

To promote greater involvement by local communities in the implementation of the program, foodstuffs delivered to schools are sourced from local farmers. Such an approach helps increase farmers’ incomes, stimulates production, and supports the local economy while reducing transportation and maintenance costs.

Improving data collection to better monitor school activities

Implementation partners have designed a computer application to monitor the program’s activities and ensure that data collected are reliable. All officials involved in conducting the school census have been trained in the use of the app, while data on the supply and operations of school canteens have been collected in each targeted school.

The development of monitoring tools like this app has made it possible to obtain reliable data on the progress of the program’s activities.

Guaranteeing better outcomes through a synergy of partner actions

While there has been a slowdown in some services due to the lockdown in Conakry, the main source of supplies for other regions of the country, the program has functioned smoothly, thanks to the leadership displayed by the MEPU-A and the collaboration between partners, notably through information sharing and complementary activities.

Regular meetings involving the MEPU-A, UNICEF and other development partners have made it possible to assess progress and constraints, and propose solutions for the continued smooth running of program activities.

In addition, the decentralized bodies of the Ministry of Education, including Regional Inspectorates, Prefectoral Directorates and School Boards, have organized regular monitoring missions to closely supervise the performance of school principals and heads of secondary institutions.

The systematic administration of COVID-19 tests to students, teachers and school administrative staff in the most at-risk areas, coupled with the organization of online training sessions for psychosocial support services personnel, were also key factors in the successful implementation of these activities.

Together, these measures have contributed to the successful beginning of the school year on November 1, 2021, and encouraged more students to register. At the end of November 2021, more than 2.88 million primary and secondary students were registered for the 2021/2022 school year, very close to the target of 2.89 million students.

This program demonstrates that a conducive learning environment, school feeding programs partner coordination and effective monitoring all support better learning.

This blog was written in collaboration with UNICEF Guinea.

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