During the last decade, attendance to primary school has increased by 52 million children*. Nevertheless, there are millions of children around the world are not able to develop their potential and build a future as they don't have access to education. The number of girls attending school is still much less than boys.
Progress has been made over the last few years in the levels of schooling in the world: the number of children not attending school has fallen by half in Southern and Western Asia; in sub-Saharan Africa, despite a significant growth in population of children of school age, levels of attendance have risen by one third. Still, it is estimated that by 2015, the number of children not attending school will be 56 million worldwide.
The state of school buildings notwithstanding, the schooling of children is often disturbed by problems related to the precarious financial state of families. In order to meet the needs of their family, many children are forced to take part in farming work, work at home or are forced to go elsewhere to work. Children who are unable to complete a year in primary school are many. Leaving school before time is something that particularly affects girls.
Health also plays a significant role in school life. Precarious health means fragile children who are less able to maintain their learning capacity. Chronic malnutrition or an incomplete diet slows down cognitive development. Undernourished children are not able to realise their full potential, either physically or mentally. Access to health care and a balanced diet go together in educational development.
FH is committed to education and supports vulnerable families with school fees and expenses for materials for their children. FH projects also seek to improve the nourishment of school children. Agricultural techniques are taught to families to help improve their crops. Canteens are built in schools to help provide a balanced diet for the children. Children are treated free of charge and courses are given in hygiene and prevention of illnesses with the participation of the parents. Children’s nutrition is monitored.
In some cases, projects also build classrooms, dispensaries, latrines and water cisterns.
* According to the report on world education of 2011 by UNESCO.
FH projects aim at schooling all the children in a given district. FH helps vulnerable families in a global way so that they are able to improve in the areas of education, food, health and agriculture.
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FH Switzerland promotes educational in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Cambodia and Guatemala.
Projects have the following aims:
- School all the children in a community
- Help with school materials (blackboards, books, pencils, uniforms, etc .)
- Support classes for children with learning difficulties
- Support cultural and sports activities
- Improve diet : placing canteens, supervising children's nutrition, agricultural training for parents
- Access to health: children are treated free of charge, training in illness prevention is to the whole family
- Improving the school infrastructure (building classrooms, latrines etc)
- Training in the following areas: agriculture, hygiene, nutrition and health, illness prevention, creating a cooperative etc)
- Families are regularly visited at home by FH staff. This follow up means that difficulties encountered by different households can be addressed accordingly and answers found together.
For example, animals (goats and cows) can be provided to a family. Milk improves children's diet, manure improves the crops. When the animals give birth, the kid or calf is given to another family in need in the community, which creates a chain of solidarity.
Sometimes families living in particular squalor are helped with building a new house.
FH works with its partners (teachers, local authorities, churches) who co-lead many FH projects designed to improve child development in an area. It is a temporary help: when the goals have been achieved, after about 10 years, FH leaves the area.
Daily living conditions of families have improved: all children attend school and they have medical care free of charge close to their home. With agricultural training, crops increase and food for the family improves. Support for income generating activities means that families are able to afford what they need.
Almost 200 families (about 1500 people) benefit from our education programmes in Rwanda, Uganda, Cambodia and Guatemala.
The work of FH in Gikomero, Rwanda, brought significant changes. For example:
In the beginning, only half the children attended school. Today, all of them attend. The drop out level was drastically reduced: from 20% it has dropped to 1%. 16 classrooms were built and 2 schools were equipped with recreation rooms. 25 teachers were trained to teach English.
Today almost 90% of families have latrines (as opposed to 30% before FH arrived). Families were trained in hygiene and disease prevention. The number of children suffering from chronic diarrhoea has dropped.
A health centre was built for the members of the community. Before, they had to walk more than one hour to get to the nearest dispensary.
The level of neonatal mortality (children born alive but not reaching 28 days of life) has dropped from 4% to 0.3%; women go more readily to the hospital to have their babies, following training in this area.
Animals (goats, cows and rabbits) were given to vulnerable families. With technical support, these families have been able to improve their harvests. Surplus from their harvests can be sold which increases the revenue for the family. Members of the community were coached in setting up income generating activities. They were trained in setting up cooperatives. Today, no less than 80% of the population is involved in some activity that generates income, working within a cooperative. Families are also able to satisfy their non-food needs.