In communities around the world, school fees can be so prohibitive for families that many students enroll late, drop out, or fail to attend at all. And when, as in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the government is not able to support the schools, communities and families must resort to creative ways of generating income so that children can attend school.
DRC communities are creating local income- generating activities, such as fishing cooperatives, livestock breeding, and community gardens. Now PAGE (Pour une Approche Globale de l’Education), a three-year pilot project, works to improve the quality and availability of primary education in two provinces, while also lessening the financial burden on parents.
At the community level, PAGE strengthens parent associations to improve school management and trains association members to conduct revenue-building activities, such as fishing and gardening. The proceeds from these activities are used to finance credit programs, which ensure that all association members have access to funds when school fees are due.
In addition to these parent savings groups, communities are creating school-based businesses that reduce fees by covering some recurrent costs.
Keeping kids in school
Luguma Venant, president of the Muleke Primary School Parents’ Committee in Walungu, South Kivu, says the programs are making a difference. “Children of parents in PAGE savings groups are attending school regularly and are no longer at risk of being kicked out of school,” he says.
In addition to community-based activities, PAGE produces and broadcasts daily radio lessons that bring high-quality math and literacy education and teacher training to even the poorest and most remote schoolrooms. Staff also work at the national level with educational authorities and international partners to formulate policies that promote the long-term sustainability of affordable, high-quality education across the DRC.
Originally published on May 1, 2008