The third secondary school of the largest city in the Department was the unlucky winner of the largest amount of destruction in the region after the first large rainstorm of the year in May 2019. The rooftops of seven classrooms were destroyed, right before the annual National testing. Already lacking classrooms for the past four years, this growing school could no longer host as a regional testing center. Three of the seven classes were originally built by the Parents Association and had not yet been finished. When the rooftops and back walls flew off, the school couldn’t afford the repairs. For the 2019-2020 year, the school is down three classrooms, which is incredibly difficult for their 1,900-person student body. A lack of classrooms requires teachers to search for an open one every class period and if a room is not found, many students are asked to return home. Because boy’s education is valued more, the girls that often return home because of no classrooms are put at a disadvantage. Many parents lose confidence in the education system and value the girls’ presence more at the house than at school. The school community and the Parent’s Association, in collaboration with the volunteer, would like to not only repair these three classrooms, but also make them more durable and safer for their students. In addition, the school will paint a world map for all students, as well as a mural against sexual harassment. At the end of the project, the classrooms will be introduced after hosting a Gender Equitable Safe School Training for the educator community.
As for community involvement, the entire community is invested in this project. The school went from needing classrooms to being in desperate need of classroom repairs. The Parent’s Association is at the head of the organization committee, already covering 50% of the project through work, monetary donations, and other community support. The Parent’s association, the original builders of the first building, want to improve their building and are supportive of adding extra security such as doors, windows, classroom locks, etc. They are working with specific carpenters, blacksmiths, student parents, and religious establishments in the area to ensure that the community will assist in the building of the classroom. The volunteer will be able to advise the planning group, if needed, however, the Parent’s Association and the school administration are perfectly capable of handling this project throughout the building process.
The murals that will be painted will be divided between the volunteer, the school professional community, and the student community. The first mural will be a world map, traced by the lead teacher of the History-Geography Department who happens to be a woman. It will be painted and completed by the rest of the student community, giving each class an opportunity to work together. The second mural, a painting against sexual harassment in schools, will be designed, traced, and painted by the school's female leaders in the girl's club.
In addition to the murals, to celebrate the opening of the new classrooms, the administration in collaboration with the volunteer will conduct a school-wide training for the professors of the school based on safe-school and gender equity practices in and out of the classroom. The role of a teacher will be discussed in depth and the importance of a safe school environment for both our girls and boys will be emphasized. These training sessions have been long awaited by this school community; however, the student community has already been trained in detail by alumni of Peace Corps programs. Now, ALL the teachers, not simply the English department, will be educated in Gender Equitable teaching practices. The school is offering to pay all teachers who attend this training as a community contribution because of its importance. Beninese teachers and NGO community members who have previously worked with the volunteer in this community will lead all the training sessions for the teachers, including a month-long pre-training specifically with the head teachers of each subject department. Sessions to be included are "Children and their Human Rights", "Equity within Disciplinary Action","Building Motivation through Equity in the Classroom", and "Addressing Sexual Harassment in Djougou". The NGO's that will be assisting are CIPCRE Benin, PIED Benin, and SNA Benin.
The community is the driving force behind this project and a large need is present.