When you enter my village, the first thing you see is the Elementary School. Built in the 1970’s, this sturdy, bright, cement school has been educating the children for decades. Once you cross the soccer field and get closer to the school, you see its smallest member: the kindergarten! Unfortunately, the rundown mud hut is a far cry from the center of learning the parents saved up their money to build. Its mud bricks are crumbling, one wall has completely fallen in, with palm fronds and rusty sheet metal propped up in its place, and the roof is rusted and full of holes. Inside, kids sit on a potholed floor since there’s only one or two borrowed desks. Although there are over 40 children in kindergarten and preschool, the space is barely large enough for 10 students. From the time I first arrived in village, it was obvious to me how passionate my neighbors were about their children’s education. Parents began coming to me, asking if we could rebuild or at least repair the kindergarten; they already saved up money every month to pay the kindergarten teacher’s salary as well as buy school supplies, they simply couldn’t save up enough money to rebuild the kindergarten on their own. Their persistence, as well as the kindergarten teacher’s optimism that having an adequate classroom would allow her students to succeed not just in kindergarten, but in all their studies after, convinced me that this was a project worth pursuing.
This project is completely proposed and designed by members of the community. I had no intentions of doing a large funded project of my own design, but the president of the CVD (Village Development Committee), president of the APE, and other concerned parents approached me repeatedly about building a new kindergarten, which I tentatively said we could look into. The presidents of the APE and CVD then came to me with a very official proposal to build the kindergarten and furnish it with desks, complete with a basic action plan. Working with the president of the APE, the kindergarten teacher, and the director of the EPP, we wrote out our goals and objectives, plan for implementation (including a plan for pre and post project monitoring and evaluation), and preliminary plan for upkeep of the kindergarten after construction is complete. We also discussed how this project can help build the capacity of the community, what risks we should be on the lookout for ahead of time and how to mitigate them, and which community members will be responsible for each step of construction. The director of the EPP, kindergarten teacher, and president of the CVD will oversee the project on a big picture scale, and a committee is being formed within the Parent Teacher Association to oversee the details of implementation, led by the president of the APE.
Since the project has been proposed, designed, and will be implemented by members of the community, their commitment to the project, even after funding has stopped, is clear. As part of the initial APE meeting to announce and coordinate for the project, members of the APE will draft a clear plan to hire of a second kindergarten teacher to accommodate the new, larger building and to upkeep and maintain the new building in case it needs repair.