Recognizing education as the main catalyst for sustained development with both social and private benefits, OneVillage prioritizes access and quality of education. Through increased enrollment and quality of education the villagers will have greater capacity to determine their own future. Social benefits from education, such as increased sanitation and nutrition as well as decreased birth rates, child mortality, teenage marriage abound. Private benefits from education, such as wage employment and increased agricultural yield, also increase. With the impact of education increasingly tangible on the quality of life of the villages, education becomes a value passed from one generation to the next creating a cycle of ever-increasing capacity.
In 2004, the primary schools in each village were barely functioning. Many had structural damage from the civil war, few classroom materials were available and learning materials were absent, and most teachers were not being paid for their work. Many parents did not have the money to send their children to secondary school and school attendance was low.
Since 2004, OneVillage has made considerable improvements through numerous initiatives in the quality of education afforded to children in the villages:
- School scholarships: This program was initiated to pay school fees for 36 war orphans and has since transformed into a program encompassing approximately 300 students. Currently, all female students who pass the National Primary School Examination are offered unconditional scholarships and 5 male students from each village are selected to receive a scholarship.
- Jokibu Roman Catholic School Addition: OneVillage funded the construction of a new wing of the school, which added three new classrooms and a faculty lounge.
- Reading Buddies Program: This program strives to improve English reading and writing skills by encouraging primary school students to utilize available reading materials. Primary school students are organized into pairs to practice their reading with an older student being paired with a younger student. A friendly competition where selected students read aloud is held annually and attended by the community.
- Academic Excellence Certificates: This program partners with local teachers to identify the top 10% in each class and celebrate high academic achievement. We provide laminated Certificates which serve as a source of pride for recipients and demonstrate the importance placed on education by the communities.
- College Loans: This program provides loans to selected college students with the condition they return to the village upon graduation and apply their knowledge for the benefit of the community. The 3 village committees select students for the loans and are required to identify at least one female candidate and one candidate for vocational training for a total of 9 students.
- Summer School Program: This program, which was initiated by village college students, employs high school and college students to implement a 6 week summer school program aimed at primary school students. This program cost $1,500 to implement, benefited 800 primary school students, and strengthened student comprehension of material.
- Education Materials: This initiative provided approximately $5,000 of educational materials to the village primary schools, including textbooks, maps, atlases, grade specific reading books, notebooks, pencil, and chalk.
- School Lunch Program: This program supplements an existing World Food Program initiative and results with children have a noon meal of bulgur each day throughout the academic year. The bulgur is cooked by the teachers and consumed by attending students.
- Additional projects include: school first aid kits, school garden plots, bicycles for out-of-town teachers, teacher training and stipends for community teacher remuneration
OneVillage Partners will continue to improve education for village children by maintaining and improving the above programs while adding projects. The quality of primary schools will be increasingly prioritized as the foundation for student’s success in later education levels with pedagogical teacher training as a key input. The scholarship program will continue under stronger management and administration to ensure finances are spent effectively. Upon request of the community, an adult literacy program is under development. It is OneVillage Partner’s hope to build a Literacy Center in each village which can serve as a central location for education-related matters; providing solar-powered electricity for evening study, small library, computer with internet access, veranda, etc. However, it is important to recognize the relationship between higher levels of education and brain drain to urban areas. OneVillage Partners must make advancements in other program areas to help decrease the tendency to migrate. If this occurs, the effectiveness of educational investments as a means for rural development will decrease.