A monitoring visit to the Bokuy village school by a CRS team in October 2011 uncovered a community school management system plagued by misunder-standings and infighting. They found a departed school principal/director, teachers almost not on talking terms, and visible signs of conflict between the community and the teachers. The obstacles to Bokuy’s children receiving a quality education and to the normal functioning of school activities were real and significant. One such activity was school gardening, meant to sustain the endogenous school canteen (lunch program) and to increase students’ enroll-ment, attendance, retention, and success rates. The gardening activity had been delayed the previous school year as well, and the prevailing uneasy situation did not show any signs of improvement. Through regular visits, the CRS team brought teachers and the community together for open discussions, which resulted in all parties’ active involvement in school activities. School gardening in particular was carried out successfully and contributed to the school lunch program.
The village of Bokuy is located in a very remote area of Burkina Faso’s Banwa Province, approximately 3 kilometers from the Malian border. Its first school was built using a community approach by the BRIGHT (Burkinabe Response to Improve Girls’ cHances To succeed) project, funded by the United States Millennium Challenge Corporation and managed by USAID in two phases (BRIGHT I and BRIGHT II) between 2006 and 2013. Before this school was built, most children in Bokuy did not attend school and the few who did walked long distances to the nearest village.
In most schools built by the BRIGHT project, lunch is provided to children through support from the Government of Burkina Faso, USAID, and other donors. However, from 2009 to 2012 in the Banwa province, the endogenous school canteen approach was piloted in BRIGHT schools, with parents and community members growing crops to feed their students themselves. The project provided food for a three month phase-out of the traditional approach, during which CRS staff sensitized, trained, and provided fencing and other material support for the creation of school gardens. The school garden was meant to supplement meals with vegetables and provide students with practical, hands-on experience in learning about agriculture, math, and science. In Bokuy, however, this objective was becoming an elucive one.
At the first reconciliation meeting with the CRS team, only five community members and one teacher (new to the school) were present. Parents reported on the mismanagement of food supplies, some problematic leadership, una-vailability of the director, lack of stakeholder involvement, and infighting between the former director and the majority of teachers. Newly appointed school director Abdoulaye Diallo, who had already left the school, called on the phone to express his disappointment at the poor relationship between the community and teachers: “If there are problems between teachers and the communities, I will fail in my mission,” Diallo said.
He was asked to return to his post. The CRS team emphasized the great role teachers and the new director could play as leaders. The talks resulted in Director Diallo coming back and excelling in his role. He organized meetings to set up groups of teachers and PTA members (male and female) and to define tasks for each group; the groups dug a well just for the garden, planted the garden, watered the crops, and ensured the daily care of the garden.
The quarrel for leadership was over. The courtyard became cleaner; onions, cabbage, carrots, eggplants, and tomatoes grew in the garden. Parents pro-vided the school with corn, sorghum, beans, and millet to supplement the garden produce and children ate more nourishing meals at lunch.
Parent Teacher Association President Sidibe Salou notes, “Now we have a good school Director. But much more than that, CRS made us more aware of the importance of our commitment to the school management and to school activities, particularly school gardening. I am now aware that I should be a role model for the others, and if I, as the president of the PTA do not personally feel concerned, the other community members will not either.”
School Director Abdoulaye Diallo added, “We overcame a challenge. Social cohesion among teachers is the most important condition to achieve when you want to succeed in education, particularly when the support of parents and of the whole community is required.”
This has also had results for the project’s most important recipients. Students from Bokuy passed the sixth grade exit CEP exam at rates far above the prov-ince’s averages: 77.78% of girls (57.19% province average) and 100% of boys succeeded (67.34% province average).
Telling Our Story
U.S. Agency for International Development
Washington, DC 20523-1000