Last year, the Deytagui-Banikoubeye primary school, in south-western Niger, had about $30 to buy necessary supplies for the year. The schoolyard was not enclosed, meaning that people and animals could wander through at any time and distract students from learning. And, while the community did build additional classrooms with local materials, the process took three months to finish, resulting in a serious disruption to the learning that was supposed to be happening inside.
A year later, things have vastly improved for the students of Deytagui.
This year, parents in Deytagui are the school’s biggest champions. How did this change happen? A community facilitator from the Niger Education and Community Strengthening (NECS) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development and implemented by Plan International, was a catalyst for the transformation of the community’s support for their children’s education. The NECS project worked with local parents’ associations, notably the School Management Committee (with the French acronym CGDES) and the Mothers Association (AME). The training and organization provided by NECS allowed the members of the CGDES and the AME to mobilize their fellow parents in support of students.
And, these committed individuals turned things around, in both effort and fundraising. Led by their respective presidents, the organizations raised $700 from within the community – a very hefty sum from a rural Nigerien village and a real sign of commitment to education. The parents’ associations put those funds to good use, buying supplies and rehabilitating a water point that will give the school access to clean water. In addition, they have set aside funds to support nighttime tutoring courses for students and to reward the winners of their “most involved parents” competition.
Fundraising was far from their only success! The committees also persuaded other parents to contribute their efforts as well, in building a school wall and classrooms. Better organized and motivated, thanks to NECS, the community took two weeks – rather than three months – to rebuild two classrooms out of entirely local materials. (The previous ones were destroyed during the rainy season.) With extra classrooms completed before the school year began, and with the school yard fully enclosed, the students began the year in a more supportive learning environment.
Finally, further improving this environment, parents of Deytagui stayed involved in their children’s education. Led by the CGDES and AME, parents made sure students attended daily and were on their best behavior. Also, they ensured that teachers received and applied training from NECS on gender relations in the classroom, which created a more positive environment, particularly for girls.
A year, a little help from Plan, and the efforts of many committed individuals made all the difference.