Entry: David Noyes, World Cocoa Foundation
Last week while at the Brookings Institution, I had the opportunity to listen to Kevin Watkins present the release of UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report on Reaching the Marginalized. This report presented a grim update on the progress towards the Education for All (EFA) goals set in 2000 at the World Education Forum in Dakar. These goals set specific targets to be reached by 2015 in the areas of:
• Improved early childhood care and education
• Universal Primary Education
• Adult skills and learning
• Adult literacy
• Elimination of gender disparities
• Improving the quality of education
While significant progress has been made since 2000, as a whole, the world is not on track to reach the EFA targets by 2015. I noted that the situation is particularly severe in Sub-Saharan Africa, where our ECHOES programs are is located:
• Of the 72 million children out of school in 2007, 32 million were in Sub-Saharan Africa (compared to 45 million in 1999), and if current trends hold, by 2015 the region will have 23 million children out of school.
• An estimated 1.2 million teachers and $11 billion per year in additional financing are needed to meet EFA goals in the region.
• Despite these needs, the impact of the financial crisis could result in a reduction of resources for education by $4.6 billion. This is a decrease of more than twice the current amount of aid for basic education in the region.
As schools provide one of the best defenses attendance serves as a preventative measure against child labor, a concern implied in the report is that poor households may respond to recent economic shocks by withdrawing their children from school and thereby putting them at risk of engaging in these sorts of activities.
It is clear from the report that if the EFA targets are to be achieved, a new approach is needed. While World Cocoa Foundation’s ECHOES Program currently operates on a relatively small scale, we are creating a model of relevant rural education that is capable of being scaled up, which will translate into a valuable contribution to the EFA mission at a time when it is most needed.
The ECHOES program has been operating in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire since 2007. The program takes a holistic, innovative approach that involves the entire community in the education process. This is done in a way that addresses a number of the EFA goals. ECHOES beneficiaries include:
• Out-of-school youth
• In-school children
• Teachers & school administrators
• Adults – both farmers and mothers with small businesses in the communities
Adults receive functional literacy training that not only equips them with such skills as being able to read the scale that their cocoa is weighed on and then calculate how much they should receive, but also allows them to see the value of education. This has led to examples of increased interest in education, like the one noted in a prior blog post (link: http://blog.worldcocoafoundation.org/2010/01/women_learn_the_value_of_educa_1.php) in which a local primary school’s enrollment dramatically increased after literacy training was introduced into the community.
Teachers and school administrators receive training that improves teacher methodologies and school management, thereby helping to improve the overall quality of education in the schools. Additionally teachers assist field staff in holding special classes in agriculture and life skills for in-school children. Shadow teachers are paired with field staff during their first year of agricultural trainings, after which they are capable of leading classes independently in the years to come. The relevant knowledge gained in these classes motivates children to stay in school and succeed. A more intensive version of this training is done with out-of-school youth, equipping them with the knowledge that will help them earn a sustainable livelihood through cocoa farming and other activities.
School agriculture clubs develop a school cocoa plot and vegetable garden to accompany the in-school training, with the help of out-of-school youth. Once the cocoa trees begin to yield fruit, the plot turns into an additional source of income for the community to apply towards improving the quality of their education. At the same time, the community gains a greater role in the process of education facilitating a bottom-up approach to education that has great potential for long-term change.
The ECHOES Family Support Scholarships component is another innovative way that education is being strengthened in cocoa-growing communities. This scholarship takes the form of a “loan” granted to a mother who has an entrepreneurial activity that she is currently pursuing and would like to improve. One third of the loan goes toward paying a year of school-related expenses for her child and the rest goes toward enhancing the mother’s business and entrepreneurship training. The loan is repaid through an agreement between the mother and the school that she will continue to pay two additional years of schooling for her child.
Tying all these elements together, we are establishing technology-enabled community resources in many ECHOES communities. The centers are based at rural schools, but are community resource centers. Depending on how the community establishes their management plan, the centers may be used during the day by teachers and students, and then in the evenings opened up to community members, making the school a center for learning and development for the whole community.
Taken in sum, these approaches offer an alternative way to achieving the EFA goals by enabling communities to have a greater voice in the direction and content of education. When individuals in the communities are more engaged in the education process, substantial, long-term change is possible.