In December, the Board of the Global Partnership for Education approved a new grant of $15.5 million for the Central African Republic, a country in dire need of re-establishing its education system after going through a political and humanitarian crisis for almost two years.
Two million children have been affected by the conflict, and hundreds of thousands have lost up to two years of schooling. An assessment carried out in February 2014 revealed that 33% of surveyed schools had been attacked, 65% were closed due to security reasons and about one third of students enrolled for the school year had not returned to school. Schools were considerably damaged, occupied by armed forces or civilians, and used as shelters for displaced people.
The situation has since stabilized and in December 2014, more than 100,000 students in regions affected by the crisis completed a three month catch-up course and were tested by the Ministry of Education.
Before the crisis, CAR—a GPE partner since 2008— had received a GPE grant of US$37.8 million in December 2008. Schools benefitted from more textbooks, renovated and newly reconstructed classrooms and teacher training. Improvements in primary enrollment and primary completion rates were encouraging. But the program had to be suspended in 2013 due to the conflict.
Hope for the Future
The new GPE grant supports the objectives of the government’s Transitional Plan. This includes restoring the education system and improving the learning environment while focusing on equity (which basically means a strong focus on the most disadvantaged children). While in a fragile context like the CAR any progress will depend on the security situation, this grant approval demonstrates renewed confidence by the Global Partnership that working towards a sustainable education system in CAR is possible. Also thanks to the GPE process, the government has committed to a sustained process, including the recruitment of civil servants teachers and community teachers and training for them which will be paid through the GPE program.
More specifically, the grant will finance:
- Recruitment of new teachers. Before the crisis the average class size in CAR was 89 students to 1 teacher. Since 2013, the situation has only worsened with the closing of schools and teachers being forced to flee due to the conflict. Training will also be provided to teachers to improve the quality of education.
- Provision of textbooks. In February 2014 it was estimated that, on average, 3.7 students share a book (it’s even up to 7.4 in certain regions). Thanks to the new grant, over 1 million manuals will be distributed throughout the country.
- Reestablishment of basic governance. The conflict has rendered the Education Ministry almost completely inoperative due to the crisis and lack of funding. The grant will support operating costs of key services like the national exam office and the statistic and pedagogy departments. It will also help strengthening the capacity of the ministry and provide necessary equipment as the offices of the ministry were looted during the conflict.
- Refurbishment, extension, and building of schools. Since the coup, schools have been damaged, looted, and occupied by civilians. The program aims to provide 247 schools with new desks and blackboards, extend 42 schools and build 46 new ones.
While the first priority of the Transitional Plan is to resume education activities throughout the country, gender disparity remains a crucial point of concern. The government is considering the abolition of school fees for girls, as well as other specific measures targeting girls, as a counter-measure to ensure that more girls go to school and complete school. This will also be articulated more specifically in the new education sector plan to be developed in 2017.
The program of the Global Partnership for Education also supports the collection of desegregated education data which will help to determine where the greatest needs are, where girls are least likely to go to school and what the main obstacles may be. This data and a full education sector analysis planned for 2016 will help the country to develop an evidence- based new education sector plan.
Until then, we hope that the current GPE grant along with the funding of other development partners will help to build the basis for a sustainable path.