Going the Distance - 5 Innovative Strategies for Reaching the World's Most Vulnerable Students

Kristen Grauer

Last week, R4D Managing Director Nicholas Burnett contributed an entry to our blog on how to improve the quality of education delivery across the world. Citing success stories from four countries in Asia, Africa, and South America,  Burnett argues that the increase of children's enrollment in school is undermined by our lack of knowledge about how to improve learning, relevance, and equity in education.

Here at CEI, we have identified nearly 500 programs from around the world that provide a number of products and services seeking to improve both the quality of learning and students' access to education opportunities. This week, we are highlighting five programs within our database that have particularly innovative strategies for reaching and enrolling the world's most vulnerable students in school. These strategies include scholarship programs, community engagement initiatives, culturally relevant outreach campaigns, public-private partnerships, and more. Continue reading below for more examples of this type of innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

1. AGE AfricaMalawi

AGE Africa supports disadvantaged girls in rural Malawi to complete secondary school by providing scholarships, an extra-curricular life skills program, and post-secondary assistance to pursue higher education or income-generating activities. The program specifically targets orphans and vulnerable children within the lowest economic quintile of the country. To ensure that AGE Africa reaches Malawi's most disadvantaged students, the program employs a rigorous, multi-step selection process to award its scholarships. Program staff first meets with district education managers to identify schools that are most in-need, then meets with schools' headmasters and faculty to gage their interest in the program. Upon selecting a partner school, a selection committee is established that consists of parents, faculty, and administrators. The committee narrows the pool of eligible students based on two main criteria: economic need and a demonstrated desire to learn (not necessarily reflected by academic performance). Program staff then conducts informal interviews with nominated students. As a final step, program staff and volunteers make household visits to assess need, see where students live, and sensitize families to the program.

2. Western Cape Primary Science Program (PSP) | South Africa

The PSP is a teacher training and support organization which aims to improve the quality of teaching and learning in core subjects in disadvantaged primary schools in South Africa through providing training, classroom support, and teaching materials. In order to engage teachers working in the most disadvantaged communities of the Western Cape, the PSP hosts an Annual Mass Planning Forum to encourage teacher participation and buy-in to the PSP's work. The Forum invites teachers from township communities to convene in the fourth term of each year and decide on their priority topics for courses for the following year. The program of courses for the following year is drawn up according to these requests. Education Department officials have also shown their support for this process by attending the event.

3. aeioTu | Colombia

aeioTU centers seek to partner with families in the development of their children's potential by offering education, nutrition, and care for children from pregnancy to 5 years of age. aeioTU operates a cross-subsidization model between two high-income centers and 14 centers that serve more vulnerable populations across Colombia. When aeioTU opens a new center, it receives a list of registered children and families in the area from the regional or local Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF), the Colombian government's national family welfare agency, and/or from the local government. If this list has more potential candidates than places, aeioTU applies a focalization criteria, where it prioritizes children by need. Criteria such as displacement, indigenous background, or economic need take children to the top of the list. Once aeioTU has applied the criteria, the selected list goes back to the ICBF for approval. The ICBF, or a local public partner, then filters out children that are already enrolled in ECD services elsewhere, or those who do not fit the criteria, and aeioTU makes up the numbers applying the same focalization criteria until the center reaches full enrollment. Remaining children go on the waiting list and, when a spot becomes available, the criteria are once again applied to determine who is offered a place.

4. Darakht-e Danesh Online Library for Afghan EducatorsAfghanistan

Darakht-e Danesh Online Library for Afghan Educators is a repository of open educational resources (OERs) for under-resourced teachers, teacher trainers, school administrators, and other education practitioners. The library uses a multilingual web platform to share more than 1,000 resources across 14 subject categories. Since so few Afghan teachers have regular internet access, the DD library's contents can be downloaded by teacher trainers and disseminated to the educators who need them the most. The implementing organization identifies and trains local resource people, or the teacher trainers who work directly with teachers, including those who work in hard-to-reach corners of the community. The implementing organization also works with the Ministry of Education to better identify teacher trainers and in-service teachers attending government-sponsored Teacher Training Colleges, where they are offered the DD Library tutorial and basic computer literacy classes to maximize their comfort with the resource library. By providing teachers with valuable resources and skills, DD hopes to improve the quality of education services for students within nomadic communities, out-of-school children, orphans, and other vulnerable youth.

5. SeeBeyondBorders Getting to School Program | Cambodia

The SeeBeyondBorders Getting to School Program improves access to education for Cambodian children by assisting families with the issues that prevent them from sending their children to school, and by providing encouragement and motivation to families and children to actively participate in education. This program incorporates a number of sub-programs, which can be categorized as “push” or “pull” programs. Push programs are aimed at cutting the barriers to going to school such as financial hardship, poor health and nutrition, and transport issues. Pull programs encourage children to come to school, to participate and to learn. In order to ensure that the most vulnerable students are supported by the Getting to School Program, conditional cash transfers are provided to families identified by the local community as the most "in-need."

 

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