Accessing and pursuing education is one of the biggest challenges for girls in Benin. Poverty remains the most important factor for determining whether a girl can access education. Parents chose to send boys rather than girls to school when they are in financial need. Violence also negatively impacts access to education and a safe environment for learning. Forced marriage at an early age is also a critical challenge. Parents force their kids to drop out of school and complete fewer years of education because of financial challenges, safety concerns, or cultural norms.
Another critical challenge is lack of classrooms. This problem puts pressure on girls and their parents. Overcrowded classrooms have a negative impact on learning, especially girl's learning, because they don't get chance to engage in one-on-one with the teacher. In addition, Besides the fact that the number of classrooms is inadequate, many are also old, don't have any windows, and the floor is not cemented, but mainly dirt floor. This makes it almost impossible to continue classes when it rains and when it is windy. Classes are scheduled early in the morning and late in the evening to accommodate all of the school’s students. Accordingly, students walk to and from school, sometimes long distances if they live in other villages, in the dark, increasing the risk of snake bites, theft, and traffic accidents. Female students are especially vulnerable and have reported numerous instances of sexual harassment, assault, and rape during their commute.
The project addresses these issues by constructing a one-story building that features two classrooms. As a result of this project girls will receive quality values-based education inadequate facilities and female students will feel safer walking to and from school because classes will be scheduled exclusively in daylight hours. Murals will be featured on the outside of the classroom that encourages parents to send their children to school and sensitize students and teachers about the issue of sexual harassment in schools. Students, teachers, school administration and influential members of the community will be invited to participate in a training in topics such as gender equitable practices, the importance of girl's education and gender-based violence.
The community is the one who proposed this project during our PACA meeting. The community addresses the issue of lack of classrooms and the administration launched several meetings with parents, local leaders, local organizations, other contributors and contractors to support and ensure feasibility. The community expressed readiness and mobilization to start building the classrooms. During the PACA meeting, the community insisted that the main need at the secondary school is additional classrooms.
The administration invited all parents of enrolled students, local leaders, and the president of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) to explain the benefits of the project, gather support, locate potential donors, and secure contribution ahead of time. The community understands the importance of their continuous support and sincere commitment to the realization of the project. The administration, counterparts, and local NGO leader will lead the training that will be held at the beginning of 2018-2019 school year to improve the school environment. Full time and part time teachers will attend the training that will be facilitated by two Peace Corps trained counterparts and local NGO leader who expressed total support of the organization of the project and the training.
The classrooms will allow the administration to better plan class schedule at an early time to accommodate students. They will be able to divide students into smaller groups to solve the problem of overcrowding. The training will provide an opportunity for teachers to know more about safe school and Gender Equitable practices. Teachers will be encouraged to adopt these practices in their classrooms to provide a better learning environment for their students and to enhance learning capacity. The administration partner, who has been working with Peace Corps Volunteers for years and adopted many Peace Corps educational practices, has committed to adopting and developing more Gender Equitable practices.