Throughout many years of action and reflection we adapted a development program consisting of two types of projects:
When hearing the name of this project you might first think of building schools, however, this is not the focus of this project. It is all about building the capacity of individuals and communities to attend to the material and moral educational needs of their children. Community Schools offer pre-, primary-, and when more developed, also secondary school education for children.
The Preparation for Social Action Programme (PSA) uses education as a tool for development. It regards knowledge, its generation and application as an engine for development. Targeted towards high school aged participants in rural areas, it has the purpose to develop capacities of youth to become “promoters of community well-being” and to be the protagonists of their own development.
We distinguish three levels of beneficiaries:
1 Direct beneficiaries: Individuals who are directly involved in the projects, e.g. children/youth who receive an education; teachers/tutors who are trained and receive employment.
2 Indirect beneficiaries: Under this category fall family members of the direct beneficiaries, often entire villages/communities within which the service projects of the PSA groups are carried out; needless to say that a community with a higher education rate will have a more prosperous future; on a family level, entire families benefit from the education of one of its members, be it a youth or a child.
3 Capacity building: In an ideal project, while concrete action is directed towards visible involvement of some aspect of life, we also measure success by the impact these actions have on the capacity of the community to address development issues at increasingly higher levels of complexity and effectiveness. For example, through community schools the local population gains experience in managing the educational needs for their village. The underlying capacities, such as the experience of overcoming problems through consultation, of taking collective decisions and implementing them, of gaining confidence in ones capacity to effect change, can be used to address other development issues prevalent within their communities.
Often the schools are started in remote rural areas, where there are no schools, or only far away. The work of our local partner organizations often starts with sensitizing the village about the importance of education. In a next step individuals, often chosen by the villagers, attend a systematic teacher-training program and are accompanied, with the support of others in their villages, to establish and sustain a community school.
Most commonly, the schools begin with a single class at the pre-school level to which, each year, additional teachers and grade levels can be added. Often the school starts under the shade of a tree, sometimes the community can rent a building and sometimes a new building is constructed using own resources.
The community participation and the resulting ownership is central to the project. The community is actively involved at all stages of the project and “owns” the project. Here are some examples how this principle of participation is applied: the villagers themselves provide the construction materials to build their own school building; the parents pay a school fee which allows the teacher to withdraw a salary; the parents elect a school committee which acts as a link between the school and the villagers and which has the task of regularly consulting on the affairs of the school. Often the school committees become an informal institution to consult on the affairs of the entire community.
Special care and attention is given to girls attending community schools and women participating as members of the school committee and being trained as teachers. In some of the projects statistics show that 50% of children attending classes are girls. How is this achieved? Mainly through talking to parents and explaining the importance of education for their daughters as future primary caregivers. Also, in reality many older girls have to take care of their younger siblings while the parents are out in the fields. Community Schools acknowledge this reality and allow those girls to attend class with their younger sibling. Government schools do not allow this thereby preventing many girls from obtaining basic education.
• Sensitizing communities on the topic of education
• Organizing and carrying out systematic trainings for new teachers, including re-fresher courses and ongoing coaching during visits
• Accompanying teachers and communities on the path of establishing a community school
• Conducting follow-up visits to communities with community schools and assisting them in finding solutions to problems
• Internal administration
Rather than a mere graduation title, this is an identity to take charge of their own material and moral development and to contribute to the transformation of society. For example, youth taking part in the programme are initiating community development initiatives aimed at increasing sustainable agriculture production, improving the health of the ecosystems in their region, fostering the education of pre-school aged children, promoting health campaigns (e.g. against Malaria) or start income generating projects, e.g. raising and selling chickens.
The PSA program originated in Colombia based on the experience of and as a natural continuation of FUNDAEC’s Tutorial Learning System (SAT) carried out in rural communities throughout Latin America for the past 20 years. SAT has reached some 90,000 young people in Colombia and has spread out to other countries in Latin America. In order to respond to the interest in adopting SAT in other countries, FUNDAEC has modified some of the curricular content and the fruit of this effort is the PSA program. During the last decade, the PSA program has spread to other continents, e.g. Asia, Africa, where it has been successfully established in many regions.
The first level of the PSA program comprises the study of 24 books that aim at developing the capabilities of young people in the areas of science, technology, language, mathematics and community development. The program is carried out in study groups, each consisting of 10 to 15 students and one tutor who meet about 20 hours a week. The groups’ activities, as they study together and carry out service projects and research in the community, are guided by these textbooks, which integrate knowledge from many disciplines to develop the capabilities of the students and to serve their communities and influence the direction and progress of the various processes of community life.
The textbooks which form part of the program impart an education of the highest academic standard, demanding rigor of study, which according to the many evaluations carried out, matches the finest programs in the world. Yet, what distinguishes the textbooks most is that they achieve such a high academic standard, while empowering, morally and intellectually, young people to become agents of change in their communities.
The PSA content and methodology strives to address the underlying causes of gender disparities by promoting the equality of women and men. Gender equality is integrated into the program. Further, because of the flexible study schedule, PSA is readily accessible to women. Available statistics show that over 50% of the youth are young women. Reports and interviews indicate that women’s confidence is raised by the development of their language skills and that they develop the capability to voice their opinion within their local communities.