Almost 60 million primary school-aged children aren’t in school, according to the United Nations. Some of them, girls especially, have to stay at home to help take care of siblings and collect water; others have to go to work to help support their family; some live too far from the nearest school; others can’t afford to pay for school fees or buy a uniform.
These children are not getting the basic education they need to become empowered adults who can support their families and their communities out of poverty.
When children are educated, they are armed with the courage and self-confidence to better themselves and their families, their communities, and ultimately the next generation. They learn how to prevent illness and improve overall health, build and maintain infrastructure, manage personal and professional relationships, understand and advocate for basic rights, and secure a livelihood. And these tools help pull families and communities out of the cycle of poverty.
Because education is so important, it’s the cornerstone of Free The Children’s WE Villages model, and the foundation on which all our programs rest.
By improving access to schools, and providing additional resources like teacher training and supplies, WE Charity’s Education pillar brings long-term, sustainable education opportunities to communities who need it most.
We know that poverty plays a huge role in preventing children from going to school. That’s why we don’t just build schools and move on. Instead, we employ local staff familiar with the needs and challenges of the community to work directly with the government.
Local teams identify areas where schools need to be built, provide the tools to build, stock and staff them, and work with government agencies to find long-term solutions to the problem of getting children into the classroom and staying until they graduate.
In each country where we work, we partner with the Ministry of Education to ensure our projects are maintained over the long-term;
create programming and initiatives that complement government-determined curriculum; and commit to providing all students—boys and girls—with a quality education.
Curriculum focuses on the basics—reading, writing and math—plus conceptual learning such as management and social relations, and practical knowledge like hand-washing, sanitation and budgeting. The children take what they’ve learnt home, share it with their parents, and ultimately empower and educate the entire community.
WE Charity education projects in partner communities include:
The facts are clear: educating children empowers the next generation with the life skills to transform their lives, the lives of their children and their communities.
Since the creation of our Education pillar, more than 1000 schools and school rooms have been built in WE Charity communities, giving 200,000 children the opportunity to gain an education and realize their true potential.
Education may provide the highest return of any social investment. Perhaps not surprisingly, that return is most profound when taking into account the impact of educating girls.
Step into the WE Charity campus at Terre Cassée, Haiti, and you’ll see why our school is gaining a reputation as a center of innovative and collaborative learning. You can smell fresh paint as you walk between the bright white and green buildings scattered around the tree-shaded quad. The playground bustles with activity as children race along the monkey bars and up a gangplank to the slide. The rhythmic thwack of a basketball on pavement sounds out as a physical education class takes to the court. Inside the building, students talk in clustered circles, working through lessons together.
These are the sounds of progress in Terre Cassée. Now that the campus is fully rehabilitated, word of its success is spreading through Haiti’s Central Plateau. But it’s not just the construction of the school that’s catching attention—it’s the atmosphere around the school. Unlike most primary schools in the region, Terre Cassée focuses on collaborative learning. Rather than arranging desks in rows that prevent students from interacting, our teachers arrange desks in pods so students can work and problem-solve together. And outside of the classroom, it’s the playground that serves as the social hub for our eager learners.
To propel our students even further, we gave the school a grant to equip all 13 classrooms with educational materials. We also recently sent a shipment of toys and teaching materials to Terre Cassée to boost the number of resources available to teachers. But we’re not just working on improving facilities within the classroom. We recently built indoor toilets for teachers, students and pre-schoolers, so that children wouldn’t have to wander out into the rain during the seasonal storms that come to Haiti during the spring. As we upgrade the campus, we’re hearing from more and more educators who want to work at Terre Cassée because of its excellent facilities and unparalleled teaching environment.
Another initiative attracting newcomers to the school has been Terre Cassée’s message of starting children in school at the right age. In Haiti, it’s common for parents to hold their children back from school so they can work and help their families earn money. By reaching out to the community and stressing the importance of early learning, we have been able to boost pre-school enrolment. We now have more than three pre-school classes, each with 50 children. To make sure that our classes surpass Haiti’s standard student-to-teacher ratio, we provide each teacher with a qualified aide. Students who start school at the right age are more likely to finish school on time. Ultimately, the entire community benefits. The cost of education decreases when students don’t have to repeat years, and students’ eventual earnings increase with each year of schooling they are able to attend.
With education, learners become leaders and develop the skills to improve their lives, their schools and their communities. On the campus of Terre Cassée Primary School, you can already see the transformation.