In the village, 42 children ages three, four, and five wake up excited to attend kindergarten. There, they learn how to raise their hands, ask questions, and listen to instructions. They learn to enjoy school. Their parents enjoy it too. Not only are they glad their children are receiving an education, they are also happy to have a safe place where their children are taken care as they work. This is the first year that the local village has offered a kindergarten class. Past generations of students struggled to pass the first years of primary school because they didn't have the correct base of knowledge, especially in French, to complete the school curriculum. Not only does this cause delays in their education, but it shows children at an early age that they aren't smart enough to succeed. The community decided this problem needed to be addressed, and thus this grant was born. This grant proposes to build a new school to host the kindergarten. Currently, the kindergarten class is held in an old, open sided shelter, unacceptable for long-term learning. The new school will ensure that the children have a safe space to learn for many years to come. Proposed, planned, and eventually to be built by the community, this school has their full support. To further demonstrate their commitment, the community will provide approximately 50% of the costs of the project through the donation of what materials are locally available and the manual labor required to complete the construction.
The community has been the driving force behind the kindergarten since the beginning of the project. From the first informal discussions I had upon arrival in my village, in which I asked community members about their children and if they went to school or not, to the meetings with my counterparts, where we talked about ideas for projects— the idea of a kindergarten was high on the list of needs. After the community held a series of meetings and determined that they would like to continue with the construction of a kindergarten as a Peace Corps Small Grant, they quickly elected two committees to lead the process. The first, centrally located committee is designed to be involved in the planning of the grant, the budget, and the discussions with Peace Corps. They worked with the local masons and carpenters to propose a budget and project timeline. The second, local committee is designed to be in charge of obtaining community participation and ensuring that the kindergarten begins as planned. They are working with the director of the primary school and the school inspector on the kindergarten plans. They have also held meetings with the community to choose a teacher for the kindergarten and to determine the school fees for each student. Finally, they will be in charge of collection community contributions of food for the teachers.
As a project designed by the community, for the community, there are already community member volunteers to ensure the continuation of the project after funding has ended. The local committee will continue to work with the kindergarten teacher and with the current parent teacher organization to ensure proper maintenance of the building, care of the students, and payment of the teachers. This will allow the project to be sustainable long after Peace Corps leaves the village.