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14 May 2014
Salima Jaffer is a Project Officer with War Child Canada, where she manages the Sudan, South Sudan and Sierra Leone portfolios. Salima has previously worked with the Aga Khan Foundation in Tanzania and Uganda, and the Tropical Health Education Trust in Zambia.
In 2012, 2,307,500 children in Sudan were out of school; 20% of those children resided in Darfur (*). In West Darfur, nearly 30% of all out of school children have never attended school. West Darfur’s 2012 Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in basic education was 72%; lower than the national GER of 80% and significantly lower than the regional average for lower-middle income Sub-Saharan African countries of 105%. Further, in 2012, West Darfur’s basic education completion rate was only 69.9% and its secondary education completion rate was a paltry 13% (**). The need for an Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP), a system that allows young people to catch up on their education, is clear.
With education as one of its three programming pillars, War Child Canada has been delivering ALP in West Darfur since 2005. The condensed curriculum is set by the government. For the younger age groups (7-9 years old), it includes math, Arabic and Islamic studies. Older age groups (10-14 years and 15-24 years) also learn English.
A key aspect of War Child Canada’s ALP is that of the ALP committees. In each ALP class, two students are elected by their peers to represent them – teachers and War Child Canada will agree to the appointment of the two students. These students are given training in classroom management and teacher support (e.g. monitoring teacher attendance and feeding back on quality of instruction). In the teacher’s absence, older ALP committees will revise previous lessons or deliver short seminars on life skills; the ALP committees also work to sensitize the community on the importance of education.
Lessons learned from past ALP projects in Darfur include:
- The need to set examinations in coordination with local community members, to avoid timing it with heavy cultivation, harvest periods or religious occasions;
- The need to avoid scheduling teacher training during the rainy season as teachers may have transportation difficulties; and
- The benefit of providing foundational teacher training to ALP teachers as this has resulted in decreased friction between students, increased attendance and improved classroom management.
The locations of ALP classes are chosen based on need, however as the need is often highest in remote areas, monitoring can be a challenge. It can take up to a full day for local staff to travel to and from a single school. Another major challenge is the economic situation of the students – poverty will often lead to the students seeking out employment rather than attending ALP classes. This challenge, however, is not unique to ALP and is also considered a factor in students dropping out of the formal schooling system.
Overall, ALP has been a successful approach to increasing access to education and getting students ‘caught up’ on their learning. Between 2011and 2012, over 5,000 ALP students graduated, approximately 80% of whom were female. During this timeframe, over 60 ALP classes were opened in West Darfur and nearly 9,000 ALP textbooks distributed. Most importantly, War Child Canada has delivered education in safe, healthy, effective, inclusive and protective learning environments.
One of the program’s successes is Khadiga, who left home in 2003 due to conflict in her town. Khadiga had never been to school. In 2006, at the age of 20 years, she joined War Child Canada’s ALP classes. After completing one year of ALP, Khadiga joined the formal school system. In 2014 when local staff met with her again, they found her to be a practicing midwife. Khadiga said: ‘It is because of War Child that I learned to read and write, and that is why I got the job.’
(*) A Situation Analysis on Basic Social Services in the Darfur States: Health, Nutrition, WASH and Education Thematic Working Group (TWG) Report (2012). Prepared by UNICEF, WHO and The World Bank
Photo credits: War Child Canada