I live and work in a small farming community in northern Benin. Parents in my village make dramatic sacrifices to ensure that their children can go to school. However, my community's primary school is in desperate need of classrooms. There are 6 grades at the primary school, around 200 students, and only 4 functional classrooms. The village's 5th and 6th classroom were mud buildings that collapsed in a rainstorm last June. The school director has built temporary shelters made of wood and tin to try to create space for all of the students, but the lack of facilities has deterred parents from sending their kids to school. This is especially true during the hot season when it can reach 110 degrees at noon, or in the rainy season when kids in the temporary shelters are pelted with rain. After talking with the director of the primary school, community leaders, and parents, the benefits of rebuilding the collapsed classrooms became abundantly clear. The community has already organized themselves, and they are prepared to donate in-kind material donations, volunteer labor, and cash donations. By constructing two new classrooms, we will be taking a huge step in the direction of development and progress for our entire community. And you can help! Please consider contributing to this project in any way that you can, whether financially or by promoting and sending this project to other friends and family. Together, you, me, and everybody in my wonderful community in Benin can make this dream a reality!
The community has shown a great commitment to the project. It was the community's idea to work with me to build classrooms, and they have shown a willingness to work and take on the majority of the responsibility. The community quickly organized a committee to oversee the project. It is the committee that decided what exactly the in-kind contributions would be, and the committee who organized community members to volunteer labor. The community found a mason they trust when it was time to draft the blueprints for the buildings. The people at my site are very much invested in seeing this project through to a successful completion.
The current makeshift structures serving as classrooms are less than a year old, and they are already beginning to deteriorate. If new, constructed classrooms are not built, when the current structures fall into disrepair, money will have to be spent to sustain them. Over time, the cost of maintaining these structures will add up, but the quality of the structures will decrease. By building classrooms now, we can invest in well-built buildings that will last for decades. The style of construction in Beninese schools uses materials and techniques that result in strong, lasting buildings. It would not be an exaggeration to say that teachers and students will use these classrooms for the next several decades with only minimal upkeep and repair. A mason and several other handymen in my community have promised to oversee and upkeep or repairs that need to happen in the years to come.