Thomas Hatch is a Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and Co-Director of the National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, and Teaching (NCREST). In December, he posted two articles with his reflections on Luminos’ unique approach to accelerated learning. These posts have been reproduced here with permission from International Education News.
Accelerating Learning in Africa: The Expansion and Adaptations of Second Chance (Part 1)
Despite significant increases in educational access around the world, one out of eleven children of primary school age remain out of school. For adolescents, that proportion reaches one in six. Illustrating the depth of the problem, in Sub-Saharan Africa, the 21% out-of-school rate for primary school age children balloons to 58% for upper secondary school age children (the highest rate in any part the world). With global efforts to increase access stalling, UNESCO and the Global Monitoring Report conclude: “Targeted interventions are needed to reach the most marginalised children, such as the millions obliged to work, the girls forced to stay home and the families displaced by conflict… We can no longer only rely on ‘business as usual’ strategies based on more teachers, more classrooms and more textbooks”.
Accelerated learning programs, like Second Chance (formerly called Speed School), serve as one such targeted intervention. Second Chance aims to meet the needs of children from 8-14 years of age who have never been in primary school or who have dropped out of school for two years or more. The program covers the content of first, second and third grade in just 10 months and helps the students to catch up to their peers and transition into the public school system in third or fourth grade.
Second Chance works by identifying a region with a high number of primary school-age students who are not in school and then establishing Second Chance classroom of no more than 25 students and a teacher (or “facilitator”) in that region. Although this constitutes a relatively small “unit of implementation,” the results have added up. Launched in West Africa by the Legatum Foundation, the Strømme Foundation, and Geneva Global in 2007, what was then called Speed School reached over 100,000 out of school children in West Africa and Ethiopia by 2015. Building on that initial success, Legatum created the Luminos Fund to expand the program in Ethiopia and to other parts of Africa.
According to a 2018 study tracking Second Chance graduates in Ethiopia from 2011-2017, about 75% of the Second Chance graduates were still in school compared to 66% of a similar group of students who had attended government schools. Furthermore, the Second Chance graduates had higher aspirations to progress beyond primary education and were over 30% less likely to dropout than comparable students in government schools. With those results, in 2018 HundrED identified Second Chance as one of 100 inspiring global educational innovations and in 2017 the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE)recognized Second Chance as one of six awardees for their creative approaches to crucial education challenges.
As Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund notes, Second Chance “has evolved, as any successful model has to.” That evolution includes the development of several key program elements across contexts:
- An active-learning pedagogical approach
- The hiring and training of unemployed youth from the local community in Second Chance’s active-learning pedagogy
- Partnerships with “Link” government schools to help ease the transition of Second Chance students into the public system
- “Self-help” groups for parents to encourage them to keep their children enrolled in school
These key elements can be considered “micro-innovations” because they are practices and structures that are new to the contexts in which Second Chance works – but their success depends on the ways in which Second Chance adapts and responds to the specific needs and circumstances in those contexts.
Active learning for basic skills
“The thing I find truly unique,” Baron explained, “is that when you work in really low-resourced environments, the assumption is that to do anything at scale in education it has to be stripped down and dry and narrow and ‘just the facts’… But Second Chance is a model of very creative, play-based learning, carried out with teachers with minimal qualifications. It’s a powerful example of being able to do something pedagogically complex in a low-resourced setting.”
That pedagogical approach was one of the key developments that facilitated Second Chance’s expansion. Developed by Jeyachandran Madurendrum after he became the country director for Geneva Global in Ethiopia in 2010, Second Chance’s approach marries a focus on key skills in literacy and numeracy with an emphasis on active learning. As the Facilitator’s Guide explains it, students work independently and in groups on learning activities that involve handling and using objects and materials from the local environment, sorting, grouping, and experimenting with them, making observations, recording findings, drawing conclusions, making generalizations, discussing what they’ve observed and learned with peers and facilitators. This active approach stands in striking contrast to conventional classrooms in surrounding areas, which are often overcrowded, with students in rows and the teacher in front delivering a lesson. As Nikita Khosla, Senior Director at Luminos observes, “If you walk into a Second Chance classroom in Ethiopia or Liberia, you will see about 25 children sitting in groups of 5. There will be work on the walls. It might be mud walls, but you will see chart paper stuck to them. You’ll see alphabets made out of clay. You’ll see children using lot of local materials for math, or going outside for nature-based learning.” In the process, Second Chance seeks to create a place where children want to come to school. Fostering that kind of environment is particularly important given the challenges many of their students face in getting to school and in keeping them motivated throughout an eight-hour school day (with almost twice as much instructional time as government schools).
Khosla makes clear that Second Chance’s emphasis on developing relationships with children is another crucial ingredient to the approach. “When we have principals and teachers [in government schools] asking us why the children in Second Chance are happy, we tell them, we don’t hit children, we talk to them, we ask them how they are, and this is very different from the teacher led classrooms in conventional schools, so even a slight deviation of that is welcomed by the students.” Both the active-learning pedagogy and the relationships with students aim to prepare Second Chance’s students to be independent learners and to help sustain them throughout their school careers.
This approach responds specifically to the opportunities and challenges in the local environment in two key ways. First, the program treats the facts that the students are older and out of school as assets. As the Facilitator’s Guide outlines, they see these students as able to learn at a faster pace and over a shorter time span than younger children and as more motivated and enthusiastic about learning.
Second, rather than developing and delivering a stand-alone curriculum, Second Chance facilitators use the active learning approach to teach the content of the national curriculum where they work. This approach also allows the facilitators to use the textbooks and other materials created to support the national curriculum – content with which local most facilitators and local partners are already familiar. This choice also eases the transition of Second Chance students into government schools that are using the same materials, and it reduces the costs of having to produce their own materials substantially.
Hiring and training unemployed youth
In another move that takes advantage of local circumstances, Second Chance looks for facilitators who are unemployed youth who know the local language and have at least a 10th grade education. Khosla reports that although this group has “zero experience teaching,” they bring other assets: “they have a real hunger for learning,” Khosla notes, “And we’ve seen they are very open, and they really absorb everything like a sponge.” On the downside, these facilitators are familiar with the content, but the active learning pedagogy is entirely new. To help them take in such a novel approach, 21 days of training are spread across the 10 months of the program. That training focuses on the activity-based pedagogy and equips facilitators to develop their own lessons that are linked to the national curriculum, draw on the Second Chance activities, and utilize local materials. In addition to the training, Second Chance tries to cultivate a “professional learning community” by bringing together facilitators periodically to share their learning and discuss their challenges.
From Khosla’s perspective, two aspects of this approach help to motivate facilitators. First, they can get a job at only slightly below the salary of government teachers and at a good rate given their qualifications. Second, they have an opportunity to develop positive relationships with the students. “The facilitators talk about how happy and excited the children are, and that motivates them to employ the approach,” explained Khosla.
Establishing “Link” school partnerships
Recognizing the challenges that Second Chance students face in staying in government schools once they graduate, Second Chance now establishes relationships with “Link schools.” Link schools are government schools that Second Chance graduates may go on to attend. Through the partnerships, Second Chance seeks to build some understanding of the Second Chance approach among the Link school staff and to encourage the staff to welcome the Second Chance graduates. “If a school already has a classroom of 70 children in grade 4,” Khosla explains, “and now Second Chance sends 15 more children, the principal and teachers really need to be on board with accepting the children. So this is just a way for us to develop some good will.” To build that good will, Second Chance provides the teachers and the principal in the Link schools one week of training to expose them to the active learning model. In some instances, principals may also allow Second Chance to operate inside a Link School by using an empty classroom. With this arrangement, the students are already in a government school building; they get into the habit of going to the school; and the parents get to know where the government school is as well. Seeing the Second Chance children engaged and happy at school has the added benefit that it can lead principals and teachers to try to learn more about the approach.
Creating parent “self-help” groups
Second Chance has also grown to recognize the importance of engaging with parents to address some of the cultural and economic barriers that prevent some children from getting access to schooling. Economic barriers include things like registration fees and, in Liberia, “hidden” costs like the need to buy textbooks and uniforms. Beyond the costs, the prospect of lost labor and a lack of clear benefits from sending their children to school can also undermine parental support. Given these challenges, to complement their work in schools, Second Chance establishes self-help groups for mothers. These groups generally meet once or twice a month to encourage mothers to come up with income-generating activities like raising chickens or selling cassava in the market. As an incentive, Second Chance provides a small “cash-injection”, matching the money that the mother’s raise.
Khosla noted that a 2016 evaluation of the program’s expansion in Ethiopia led to the realization that they were not paying enough attention to the self-help groups. In response, they established a new position with a small stipend for a volunteer from the local community who helps to make connections and support the work of the group. The 2018 evaluation tracking the performance of a group of Second Chance students and a comparison group from government schools for six years highlights the importance of addressing these kinds of economic and cultural issues outside of school. That study shows that costs remain the biggest reason former Second Chance students drop out of school; however, the difference between the drop-out rate of the “richest” and “poorest” Second Chance students narrowed much more than it did for government school students. Although it is impossible to make causal links between the self-help groups and Second Chance outcomes, that same study also found that household assets of Second Chance students improved by about 45%, and the average livestock increased by about 53%, while the household assets and livestock average of students from government schools stayed almost the same over the six years.
— Thomas Hatch
“I have wanted to climb Kilimanjaro since I saw it in the distance on a backpacking trip 12 years ago. This is the year! I also believe education is a key ingredient to people having more opportunities in life, especially in underdeveloped or developing countries. So, I thought why not combine these two things and attempt to raise some money for the Luminos Fund through my Kilimanjaro climb.”
On September 18, Ruth Wynne achieved her goal of 12 years and summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa standing 5,895 meters tall. Her campaign raised $5,115, exceeding her initial goal of $3,000, and will help bring 34 students in Ethiopia back to school. We, at Luminos, are incredibly proud of Ruth and her impressive feat, and grateful that she chose to dedicate her hike to support students receiving a second chance education through our programs. We had the chance to chat with Ruth about her experience climbing Kilimanjaro, and why she believes education is the key to unlocking prosperity around the world.
Luminos: Can you walk me through your final ascent?
Ruth: We were woken at 2am, breakfast at 2:30, and we left camp at 3am in pitch dark apart from the most amazing sky in terms of the number of stars and the visibility. You’re up so high. You’re above cloud level. It’s amazing, and every night was like that. So, we had two and a half hours of uphill, I guess, almost moonlit terrain. I hadn’t done night hiking in the past, and I found that quite tough. All you see is the tiny distance in front of you that your head torch lights up. And my body obviously decided I should be sleeping, and I actually nodded off a couple times as I walked, though I quickly jerked awake. I scared myself a little because obviously I was walking and there were rocks and I didn’t want to twist my ankle and have that impede me from the summit. But luckily, I didn’t trip. It’s quite strange how your body reacts: as soon as I could see light on the horizon, it’s like somebody flipped a switch and suddenly I didn’t feel sleepy again until 4pm that evening.
We had to cross a glacier, on the real peak itself. At that point, you’re tired, so the glacier was hard. You’re slipping a little bit. It’s packed ice up to your knees and then there’s little pathways through. You don’t want to slip with the ice being so packed and hard. And then we reached the peak itself, Uhuru peak. It was amazing because we had it to ourselves. We were worried about whether we would have to stand in line for a photo at the summit, but then it was just us. You feel like you’re on top of the world, and you’re getting to have this moment with just a few people which is quite phenomenal.
Luminos: How does it feel to have completed this goal you’ve held for so long
Ruth: It was a relief when we summitted. Although it’s not people’s fault if they don’t summit due to altitude, it would have been quite disappointing. I got very lucky and the altitude didn’t seem to bother me. When I have been up high before, it has been tougher, so I felt not just relief but gratitude that I had made it. I felt gratitude also for the opportunity to do the climb: that I had the funds, that I could take the time off work, that I have a colleague and friend who was willing to go with me because it wouldn’t have been the same experience hiking solo.
Luminos: Do you have any advice for anyone planning on climbing Kilimanjaro?
Ruth: If you haven’t night hiked before, try and do it a couple of times because that was what I found to be mentally tough. The other thing I would say was yes, [cardio] fitness helped, but strong legs would have helped more. You can stop and get your breath back, but you can’t build up your legs when you’re already there. So, squats, dead lifts, lunges, all that fun stuff. I would have loved to be more fit than I was, but I was stronger than I thought I would be. I thought back to one of the instructors from my gym class who said, “don’t get too caught up in the cardio side of things and forget about the strength side.” It really did prove true.
Luminos: Why did you select Luminos as a charity to support?
Ruth: I chose Luminos because education, I think, is one of key components to achieving prosperity and exiting poverty. It’s such a good base and starting point and allows people to move forward and open more doors regardless of the country or how developed it is, but I think that’s especially true in under-developed countries. The difference between literacy and non-literacy, and how that affects your earning power, etc. And with a better education potentially comes a better salary or means to provide which has that ripple effect through generations. I think it really is something that is very hard to measure where that actually ends. Also, my mom’s a teacher, my sister’s a teacher, my aunt’s a teacher, friends are teachers, they’re a constant in my life! So, I suppose I did grow up in a household with a respect for education which has filtered through a little bit as well.
Luminos: You significantly surpassed your fundraising goal. What does it mean to you to receive this support from your friends and family?
Ruth: Firstly, a massive thank you to all who did support me, it was really humbling. As I said, I come from a teacher family and also know a lot of teachers. I didn’t know what to expect in terms of support, but this definitely far outweighs any expectation. And I’m just really grateful and touched that people took the time to click on the link to actually go and do it. Different friends shared the fundraiser because it touched a chord with them. It wasn’t just supporting me; Luminos touched a chord in them. It’s interesting to see people think about the education space. I believe it’s a key to helping people move past the poverty line, so maybe it made people think a little bit or have a brief discussion with a few friends and who knows where those discussions could go.
Luminos: Anything else you would like to share about your experience?
Ruth: If anyone is thinking about Kilimanjaro, it’s doable. It’s so doable. It’s not technical climbing, you can do it in less than the 8 days if you’re worried about leave from work. It’s one big hike as opposed to mountaineering, so if anyone does want to put it on the bucket list but is slightly afraid, don’t be. Go do it! It’s a fantastic experience!
We’re thrilled to be recognized once again by HundrED.org as one of the top 100 global innovations in education. Shortly after we received the news, HundrED featured us in an article on their website. You can view the original article here.
Speed School Students Complete School At Twice The Rate of Government-Run Institutions
Children on Speed School’s programme complete elementary school at twice the rate of their government school peers, a new report by the University of Sussex has discovered! The results show how the approach taken by Luminos, creator of Speed School, is proving more effective in tackling the widespread issue of children dropping out of school and not receiving a quality education in rural Ethiopia.
Speed School has been so successful that they are now also in operation in Liberia, where they are called Second Chance. The program in Liberia is the same as in Ethiopia, with a few adaptations to suit the local context – a key ingredient in making sure that an innovation still works when it is scaled to a new location, after all, no two cultures or countries are exactly the same!
Luminos credits its success to its holistic pedagogy. Children receive individualized instruction, are continually assessed to make sure they are all are on track and aren’t falling behind, their lessons are activity-based and are on multiple subject areas, and they learn the fundamentals of how to learn, a skill set that sets children up for a life of learning. Children in these programmes also read four times as much as those in government-run schools.
The success of Luminos’ programmes aren’t just down to their contemporary pedagogical approach, they take this one step further by engaging whole communities in their work. Along with programmes like Speed Schools and Second Chance that make sure children can re-enter education and receive a better education, Luminos also actively engages parents through self-help groups and community mobilization, and they build the capacity of the community by getting teachers and school leaders up to speed. Together, this multi-stakeholder approach helps to make sure no child is left behind.
So what’s next for Luminos? There’s no slowing down, as Caitlin Baron, CEO at Luminos, told us their next goal is, “to bring Second Chance to another 140,000 children across five critical countries in Africa.”
Want to learn more about Speed School and Luminos’ impactful work? Head to their project page for more information.
There’s nothing more important to us at Luminos than safely shepherding our children towards their full potential. Making that a reality, especially in the difficult environments in which we work, takes real commitment.
Earlier this year, Luminos embarked on a six-month process of exploration and program development to identify proactive yet practical ways to improve the safety of the children we serve. I am writing this blog now to share news of our new practices, and to invite the global community to be a part of our collective, continuous improvement on the journey to ensure the safety of every child.
Luminos has had a child protection policy in place since inception. All staff who work on our programs are required to sign it. Every teacher in our program attends a specific training on putting the policy into action in their classrooms. As a fairly new organization, we’ve not yet had a reported case of abuse within our programs.
Nonetheless, for any program working with children, anywhere in the world, the risk of abuse is always present. As an organization that works with some of the world’s most vulnerable children, that risk is especially pronounced for us. In Liberia, 20% of students of both genders have reported being sexually abused by teachers or school staff (UNESCO, 2015). In Ethiopia, where corporal punishment is prohibited by law, about 75% of students report witnessing a teacher administer corporal punishment in the classroom in the last week (UNICEF, 2015). In Lebanon, Syrian refugees are at risk for trafficking and exploitation, with Lebanese NGO’s reporting the increasing prevalence of child marriages and forced child labor (US State Department, 2017).
Many of the easy ways to help keep children safe are simply not available in contexts without phone service, with weak legal systems, and with traditions of child rearing that can sometimes put the needs of adults ahead of children.
So, we’re up against a hard reality. But the challenges of the context cannot allow us as the global aid community to be complacent. On the contrary, the difficult environments we operate in need to drive us to think with new levels of creativity around how to truly protect the children we serve.
Excerpt from child protection presentation for our students
Luminos worked with a child safeguarding and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) specialist to review our child protection policy and practices. For this academic year, we have added some important new elements to our program in Liberia that seek to empower both children and their parents to know their rights and create avenues for confidential reporting of any incidents of abuse.
- Children receive direct instruction on their rights to a safe classroom and are taught how to report abuse from an independent specialist in child protection. Child protection practices at classroom level are also reviewed by field supervisors.
- Parents receive training from program staff on children’s rights and the importance of reporting abuse.
- A local phone number for reporting abuse, which connects to our trained specialist, is posted in every classroom.
As the CEO of Luminos, I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken this year to strengthen our child protection practices. The shift we’ve made from a reactive to a proactive stance on child protection is vitally important. We know however, that there’s still more work to be done. We are eager to engage with the global aid community in pushing all of us to be better, and we invite all suggestions and ideas on how we might further strengthen our systems.
The crises in Bangladesh and Biafra in the seventies drove the creation of the modern humanitarian sector, with the realization of how much good could be done when millions are made vulnerable by conflict. The crisis in Goma twenty years later drove a revolution in the humanitarian community’s understanding of the potential to do real harm, as well as good, when stepping into complex emergencies. The crises of Oxfam and other organizations must serve as a wake-up call for all of us on the urgency of upping our game in keeping children safe. Let this be the challenge that spurs us to true breakthroughs in child protection across the humanitarian system.
On June 21, 2018, we had the pleasure of hosting Kwame Akyeampong in a dialogue about second chance education courtesy of our friends at the Legatum Institute. Professor Akyeampong is lead researcher on a longitudinal study, conducted by the University of Sussex Centre for Independent Education, regarding the Luminos Second Chance program in Ethiopia. He is also an expert in education and learning for out-of-school children and the evaluation of programs that support them.
The Second Chance program (Speed School in Ethiopia) is focused on primary school-aged out-of-school children living in remote areas of Ethiopia who have never attended school or who have dropped out. The Program provides children opportunity to be reintegrated into government schools after 10 months of accelerated learning instruction. It aims to improve individual learning by seeking not only faster learning but also deeper and more effective learning.
The longitudinal study tracked the progress of 1,875 Ethiopian children between 2011 and 2017. A third were out-of-school children who completed Luminos’ 10-month program in 2011 and transitioned to neighborhood government schools. This test group was matched and compared against 1,250 students from Government Schools.
Professor Akyeampong noted that the longitudinal study is proof that this program benefits children well into their future lives. The study revealed that even six years after completing the 10-month program, Luminos children do better than their government school counterparts.
They are happier, persist in school longer, outperform by more than 10 percentage points in English and Math, complete primary education at twice the rate, and have higher aspirations for further education and employment. Access the Luminos Summary of Sussex Longitudinal Study Findings here.
According to Professor Akyeampong, these long-term benefits are the result of the design of the Luminos program which supports smaller class sizes, nearly four times more reading hours than government schools, and a play-based, child-centered pedagogy and learning system that teaches learners how to learn. The Second Chance classes are supported by a parent engagement and self-help program that gets parents involved in their children’s learning as well as activities that mobilize the community to contribute to positive learning outcomes.
Professor Akeampong made the argument that not only was this longitudinal study one of the few conducted on programs for out-of-school children, but the results also provide an important evidence base that can be built upon to inspire best practice-driven reform and investment for children who are denied a chance to learn due to poverty, discrimination, and conflict.
The Luminos Fund would like to thank the Legatum Institute and all our friends and guests who shared this important moment with us and Professor Akyeampong. We look forward to expanding the circle of dialogue about the importance of Second Chance education for children at the margins of society. In the meantime, please take a minute to review the Luminos Summary of Sussex Longitudinal Study Findings.
In partnership with the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), Le Monde has featured Luminos’ Speed School program–a 2017 WISE Award Winner–in a recent article exploring how NGOs can support national education systems. Author Hélène Seingier argues that the “rigidity and lack of resources” in Ministries of Education limit their ability to reach the most marginalized children, and that programs such as Speed School have the flexibility to fill this need. The Speed School program takes a fresh approach to learning and pedagogy that reaches the boys and girls who have slipped through the cracks. The full article is available below or on Le Monde’s website.
Quand les ONG dessinent un système éducatif parallèle
Diverses organisations ont mis en place des méthodes adaptées aux enfants à la scolarité en pointillé. Dans les camps de réfugiés ou ailleurs.Et si on apprenait l’alphabet avec les mains, en modelant des A et des B dans de l’argile ? Et si c’étaient les « grands » qui transmettaient ce qu’ils ont compris aux plus jeunes ? Avec ces techniques, en Ethiopie, les Speed schools ont déjà permis à 100 000 enfants non scolarisés de rattraper, en un an, l’équivalent de trois années scolaires. Cela a valu à la fondation d’être finaliste des Wise Awards 2017.
Comme des centaines de projets d’associations, l’initiative sort des sentiers battus de la pédagogie et réconcilie avec l’école des garçons et filles qui semblaient perdus pour la cause. « Dans le monde, 264 millions d’enfants ne sont pas scolarisés, notamment les filles, les enfants entrés trop tôt dans le monde du travail et ceux qui sont affectés par un conflit », rappelle Morgan Strecker, spécialiste de l’éducation à l’Unicef. Rigides et manquant de moyens, les systèmes étatiques peinent à accéder à ces publics – et encore plus à adapter l’école à leurs besoins. L’Unicef soutient ainsi un projet mené par Caritas au Liban, en Palestine et bientôt au Bangladesh avec les réfugiés du Myanmar. A travers des jeux simples, comme fabriquer une voiture avec des bouteilles vides, The Essence of Learning aide à recréer un lien avec l’enfant traumatisé, lui donne confiance en lui et le remet sur la voie de l’apprentissage.
Livret d’apprentissage modulable
C’est le même souci de l’adaptation qui guide les enseignants des Escuelas Nuevas (« écoles nouvelles ») de Vicky Colbert, lauréate du prix Wise 2013, cette fois dans la Colombie rurale. Nombre d’enfants y manquent plusieurs semaines de classe chaque année pour aider leur famille lors des récoltes. « Le système éducatif rigide expulse ces élèves et les fait redoubler ! Nous, on pense que c’est au système de s’adapter », affirme Carlita Arboleda, d’Escuela Nueva. Avec des livrets d’apprentissage modulables, en élaborant le savoir au lieu de le recevoir du professeur, les enfants assimilent les connaissances à leur propre rythme. La sociologue qui a créé cette méthode il y a quarante ans visait les écoles de campagne où plusieurs niveaux cohabitent dans la même classe. Mais l’absentéisme, le redoublement et le décrochage ont tellement chuté que le gouvernement a étendu l’expérience à toute la Colombie. Plus de 15 pays, de la Zambie au Timor-Oriental, ont depuis adopté le modèle.
Innovantes dans leur pédagogie, ces structures mènent aussi un travail de fourmi sur le terrain pour changer l’état d’esprit des familles. « En Inde, pour les communautés, une fille de 10 ans est trop âgée pour aller à l’école, elle doit être mariée », rappelle Safeena Husain. Elle-même élevée dans le patriarcat et la pauvreté, elle a créé Educate Girls (« éduquer les filles »), qui, en dix ans, a remis 200 000 fillettes sur le chemin de l’école. Le secret ? Une armée de 10 000 volontaires qui rencontrent les familles en faisant du porte-à-porte puis offrent des cours de rattrapage aux nouvelles élèves.
De l’Ethiopie à l’Inde, tous ces acteurs disent l’importance de travailler avec les gouvernements, notamment pour influencer peu à peu le système. « Il y a un manque de moyens des Etats mais parfois aussi de volonté, car éduquer intelligemment ces enfants pauvres n’est pas leur priorité », souligne Frédéric Boisset, président de l’association SEED, qui soutient des associations d’éducation alternative dans les pays en développement. L’une d’elles est Jiwar (« voisinage »), qui agit dans les quartiers défavorisés de Rabat ou de Salé, au Maroc. Elle s’installe dans les locaux des écoles et propose l’équivalent de classes maternelles gratuites, inexistantes dans le public. Sur les 3 500 enfants passés par ces maternelles solidaires, 90 % sont toujours scolarisés. Surtout, les activités sont axées sur l’ouverture au monde et la tolérance ; une façon de contrer l’influence des islamistes, très présents dans le préscolaire.
« Après avoir longtemps construit des écoles, nous sommes entrés dans les contenus des enseignements », précise ainsi Joseph Nzaly, de World Vision Sénégal. Il assure que le nombre d’élèves sachant lire en fin de cycle a quadruplé, et que la composante religieuse n’a jamais posé problème. Mais l’Afrique de l’Ouest est le terrain du chercheur Louis Audet-Gosselin, du Centre d’expertise et de formation sur les intégrismes religieux et la radicalisation, et lui dit avoir vu des élèves musulmans se convertir au protestantisme évangélique. « Cela fait partie de la foi évangélique de “sauver” des gens par des conversions. Et certains Etats estiment qu’un certain niveau de prosélytisme est acceptable tant que l’ONG met en place des actions éducatives valables. »
Plus à l’est, au Kenya, le risque soulevé n’est pas celui du prosélytisme mais de la marchandisation. Les écoles privées de Bridge s’y attirent les critiques. Financées par des bailleurs aussi prestigieux que la Banque mondiale, elles sont accusées de faire payer chèrement aux familles un enseignement dont la qualité n’est pas évaluée. Preuves à l’appui, plus de 170 organisations du monde entier ont lancé un appel à la vigilance en août dernier. Avec ses millions de « clients » potentiels et tous ces jeunes esprits encore malléables, l’éducation parallèle attise bien des convoitises.
Cet article fait partie d’un dossier réalisé en partenariat avec le World Innovation Summit for Education.
Par HÉLÈNE SEINGIER