It has become widely accepted that education initiatives represent a central pillar of any development strategy.
The world is aiming to ensure that, by the year 2015, all children will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. This, in a nutshell, is the second of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Many development experts point out that, in order to hit this target by 2015, all children eligible for primary education should have been enrolled by the end of 2009 and that this means the goal has already been missed. Even so, impressive strides forward have been made. In sub-Saharan Africa between 1999 and 2008 enrolment in primary schools increased from 58% to 76%.
One of the key reasons why progress has not been as rapid as had been hoped is that, whilst education is key to alleviating poverty, poverty is regarded as the biggest obstacle to accessing education; developing nations have to contend with this vicious circle.
A common response has been for governments to abolish primary school fees; this can bring excellent results, for instance in Burundi where primary-school enrolment reached 99% in 2008. However, whilst abolishing school fees reduces costs faced by families, it does not remove them altogether. Schools still demand that the likes of uniforms, books, stationery, and even a desk, must be paid for if students wish to take up their ‘free’ school place.
Edgar Urassa, one of COCO’s project coordinators in Tanzania, estimates the annual cost to a family of sending just one child to primary school is £60; average annual income is £315. These costs can mean that primary education, let alone secondary, is beyond the means of poorer families.
COCO helps to address issues surrounding education in a number of ways. In Songea, Southern Tanzania some pupils are supported financially through school and the opportunity to access vocational training is provided for children who have not been able to secure a formal education.
Furthermore, renovating and rebuilding school infrastructure has been undertaken in Songea as well as at our sites in Majengo, Londoto, Nkwawangya and Olomayani (where COCO also helps fund a full time teacher). All of this goes some way towards alleviating the massive economic burden on underfunded schools as well as on families forced to live on or below the poverty line.
What do you think about the cost of education in the developing world? What might developing governments do differently? How can the likes of the UK best assist? Is COCO approaching these problems in an appropriate way?
Let us know what you think by commenting below…