Ensuring Sustainability of Rural Education: ECHOES District Stakeholder Meetings
Entry: David Noyes, World Cocoa Foundation
ECHOES, the World Cocoa Foundation's rural education program, is expanding opportunities for youth in rural cocoa-growing communities in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire with an approach that brings improved educational capacity to entire communities. The ECHOES approach has relied on a high level of community engagement from the beginning, ensuring that our interventions are demand-driven and thereby more sustainable. District level stakeholder meetings are held from time to time as part of our efforts to help communities to sustain and expand the improvements in rural education that have been seen under ECHOES. These meetings bring together village chiefs, opinion leaders, teachers, district level authorities, and other stakeholders.
A chief shares his views at the stakeholder meeting in Sefwi Wiawso
I recently had the opportunity to participate in the Sefwi Wiawso and Juaboso district stakeholder meetings in the Western Region of Ghana. I was accompanied by Mrs. Josephine Kuffour-Duah, from the Ghana Education Service (GES) in Accra. Mrs. Kuffour serves as the ECHOES liaison officer for GES. She came to observe first-hand the improvements in rural education that are being realized under ECHOES.
The meeting began with some introductory remarks from the district director of education, Mrs. Kuffour, and me. In her remarks, Mrs. Kuffour noted that the objectives of the ECHOES Alliance are all in line with government educational policies as the project works towards (i) increasing enrollment, (ii) improving school attendance, (iii) maintaining children in school to transition, (iv) raising the number of trained teachers, (v) increasing the livelihood opportunities for young adults and the youth, and (vi) improving literacy levels. She furthermore expressed her admiration for the development of models which have been appropriate and useful for education in the agricultural communities. These models help improve farm safety, and help share farm techniques that reduce the need for extra labor.
Chiefs, teachers, and IFESH teacher trainers interact at the stakeholders’ meeting in Juaboso
ECHOES implementing partners Winrock International, World Education, and IFESH each gave a brief overview of their various interventions before opening up a general discussion on how the innovations in rural education and livelihoods might be sustained after the project has come to an end. Village chiefs and teachers from ECHOES communities offered concrete plans for how to sustain and expand on the increased capacity that they have seen in their communities. Some plans offered included:
- Developing sound business models to ensure the profitability of the ICT-enabled (information and communications technology) resource centers being established under ECHOES
- Using income generated from school demonstration plots to carry out projects designed to improve educational capacity in the communities
- Using cocoa nurseries to develop an additional source of income to sustain the project
- Gathering community wellness committee members from the different ECHOES communities each month to meet at the local radio station and share with others their efforts in the communities to improve education
- Establishing regular communication with district governments to seek their financial support for projects with a demonstrated impact on educational outcomes
- Increasing involvement of school management committees and parent-teacher associations (PTAs) to implement improvements in school infrastructure
We were excited to hear from the chief of Krayawkrom that children are going to school more regularly now and the in-school agricultural education is going well. Out-of-school youth go to practical lessons and are learning new farming methods. The scholarships are helping mothers to put more effort into improving their businesses, and the community continues to benefit from school renovations. These district stakeholder meetings helped bring these points and many more to light, showing why the communities are so motivated to expand upon what they have learned through ECHOES.
In concluding the meeting, the chief of Ahokwaa agreed with leaders of other ECHOES communities that in the next –two to three months they would develop a sustainability plan in collaboration with ECHOES partners that are in the field and meet again to share their ideas.