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Basic education

Statistics from the World Health Organization shows that 47% of the Togolese population, who are 15 years or older, are illiterate and in 2010, around 62% of the population lived below the national poverty line (1). Many schools lack of actual buildings. Some schools are not even registered by the government and teachers go unpaid for their work. Classes are many times held outdoors under a roof of hay and if the parents cannot afford chalk, the classes will be cancelled. Many schools lack of benches and there is not much money to pay to the teachers in order for them to give support for homework. Since many families are struggling to provide the food and the  health care needed for their families, there is not much money left for pens, writing books, or lamps that are needed for doing homework once it is dark. Getting an education is not always prioritized in all families. Many children are very involved in helping out at home and at the farm and therefore their school work is suffering. Especially the girls have daily responsibilities in the household.

In poorer countries such as Togo, many children do not have access to their own birth certificates. The birth certificates are mostly issued in the cities and to travel to the city is very costly for many of the families living in the Togolese rural areas. Without a birth certificate the choices in life can become limited. One critical limitation is that without a birth certificate one cannot get enrolled in primary school or in any other school.

In the light of all this, the Togolese organization IARAD (2) and the Swedish organization, Action10 (3), decided in 2008 to collaborate to improve the situation for the Togolese children.

This program has several goals to be attained. Some of these goals are; to give financial support to a number of selected children so that they can attend school and so that they are provided the material required for school, to support the sponsored children to manage their homework, to make sure that the sponsored children get the nutritious food that they need in order to grow and stay healthy, to make sure that each sponsored child get basic health check-ups and that they get medical aid when needed, to ensure that each child has a medical book, to teach the sponsored children about their rights, to support and encourage the Togolese government to build schools with classrooms and toilets, to teach the children and the teachers the importance of keeping a good hygiene.

Another group of people that are included in the target group of this program, is the sponsored children’s parents, their families and/or the adults responsible for the children if the children’s parents or families are not around. This group of people is offered sensitization programs on the importance of education as well as children’s rights. Furthermore, the program aims to offer them training and coaching on how to start small businesses and the aim is to support them in the process of actually getting their own businesses up and running.

The program does not only give support to the sponsored children and their families/the persons responsible for them, but also to the children’s teachers. The program aims to support the teachers with school material, training and it aims to ensure that the teachers are reasonably paid. Additionally, the program has as a goal to make sure that physical punishment is not used.
Ever since this program was started the successes have been many.

In 2009, IARAD picked out 10 children who did not attend school and who were somehow considered to be “vulnerable”. These “vulnerable” children were amongst others orphans and homeless children. A photo was taken of each selected child and information, such as name, family situation and so on was gathered by IARAD. IARAD and Action10 paid their tuition fees so that they could attend school and the children were also provided with school material. In 2010, 25 children were sponsored to go to school. In 2011 the number had increased dramatically to 91 children.

One of the measurable successes of this program is that 90% of the IARAD and Action10 sponsored children passed their annual exams in 2011. This should be compared to the other non-sponsored children’s success rate of about 50% the same year.
By 2011 more children’s rights classes had been held in the schools included in this program. These classes brought up amongst other things the children’s right to go to school, their right to do their homework, to live with their families, to say no to sex, to say no to getting pregnant, to be protected against AIDS, their right to say no to excessive work, to be shown respect, to get the appropriate amount of nutritious food per day, to have access to safe drinking water, and their right to have access to their own birth certificate, and to not be victims of physical punishment. The sponsored children, their families and/or the persons responsible for them, as well as the children’s teachers all participated in these educational trainings on children’s rights.
In 2011 the use of physical punishment in the schools had become much rarer and per request of the government, additional classrooms were built Foulany Kondji, the school building in Agbodjékpoé was improved and benches were also given to these schools. In Agbodjékpoé there are today two school buildings with six classrooms in each building serving about 600 students.
In 2011, the Togolese government started offering a tuition-free primary school (class 1 to 6) for all children. In addition to this the government also decided to equip all schools with reading books and books for mathematics.

All of the IARAD and Action10 sponsored children, are at this point doing their basic education, so due to these governmental initiatives, IARAD and Action10 do not have to pay for any school fees anymore. The children do however need support with school material, school uniforms, money for health care, school lunches as well as social support. IARAD and Action10 give as much financial support as they can in order to fulfill these needs.

The yearly costs for all the school material needed, all the lunches in school, the health care and the cost for a light for doing home work at night for one child is estimated to around 120 Euros.

Workshops for the sponsored children’s families and/or the persons responsible for them have, on several occasions, been held and the awareness making that IARAD and Action10 have worked hard on, has given some proofs of successful results. One being the fact that some of the children’s families/the persons responsible for them have now prioritized to pay for their children’s school material. Their children’s education have become a priority for them.

Even though the successes of this program are many, there is still work left to be done to improve the educational system and the Togolese children’s situation. Some of the needs that IARAD and Action10 will continue focusing and working on are; to strengthen the support for health care for the sponsored children, to find good ways to ensure that the sponsored children get the food that they need, toilets need to be accessible for the children attending school, and there are many more children waiting to get the support to be able to get their basic education. IARAD and Action10 are also considering continued support for the already sponsored children so that they after their basic education can continue studying or learning a profession.

(1) Togo-at-a-Glance (please feel free to click on this link, this is a link to a website of the World Bank), 18th of December 2012
(2) IARAD was founded in 1993 in Lomé, the capital of Togo.  The goal of the organisation is to fight poverty and to contribute to sustainable development. One of the methods used to reach these goals is to develop and promote science appropriate solutions to environmental problems related to water, health and nutrition for the population, especially targeting the poor in Africa.
(3) Action10 was founded in 2009 in Stockholm, Sweden and its vision states that extreme poverty can be eradicated in all countries within a limited period of time.
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