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Kham Aid Foundation
Schoolchildren get a lesson in oral health from
Kham Aid volunteers
Community Education Initiative
Why children drop out -
one school headmaster's views - May, 2006
Background: tuition is no longer the problem - or is it?
Education in China is changing, and the latest
news is that the Central Government has mandated a reduction in
tuition for children up to grade 9 (junior middle school). They
have announced that fees will be gradually reduced until education
to grade 9 is completely free.
Kham Aid is keeping close watch on the new policies, and especially
how they are implemented at the local level. Local implementation
is not always in line with national policy. In the past the
schools have found ways to charge students even when there weren't
supposed to be any charges.
A huge ongoing problem is that money that is supposed to be provided
to the schools is often eaten up by unscrupulous mid-level officials
before it reaches the schools that need it. So, tuition may be
going down, but the schools are still desperate for cash and quality
of education - never high even in the best of times - is at risk as the schools tighten their belts.
Why Little Tashi Can't Read
In many Tibetan towns there are
few jobs for high school graduates, so children
aren't motivated to study.
Poor equipment like this broken
blackboard make it difficult for children to learn
primitive living conditions in rural schools, teachers yearn for a transfer elsewhere or a way to leave the
Tuition support is not a sure-fire cure for educational failure.
Tibetan children face many other obstacles to education, for example:
- Parents are concerned about the child's well-being at
boarding school away from home.
- Tibetan children don't find the curriculum
relevant to their culture and their lives.
- Teachers are demoralized by the difficult living conditions,
so teaching quality is poor.
- Teachers don't speak the same Tibetan dialect
as their students - if they speak Tibetan at all.
- Schools may lack amenities such as heat,
electricity, blackboards, desks, or chalk.
- Schools are too far away, and parents are
unwilling to send young children to board at school.
- Poor nutrition retards children's
intellectual development and reduces academic achievement.
- Lack of transportation to school - important when children
are too ill or tired to walk.
- Children don't have any role models to
inspire them to study.
- Parents are illiterate and cannot help with
homework or provide encouragement to their children.
- Children are sick and families cannot obtain
or afford proper medical care for them.
- Parents prefer to send children, especially
boys, to the monastery where they do receive a good religious
education but will not learn useful subjects such as math,
history, or Chinese.
- Parents need the children at home to help
- Children, especially girls, who board at
school may suffer from abuse from teachers or other school
- Because of the distance to school, children
wait until they are 10 or 12 years old to start grade one, which
forecloses any possibility of continuing past primary school.
- Parents don't think education is useful
because it does not reliably lead to good paying jobs
- Attending school interferes with children learning
farming and herding skills, thereby rendering them unfit for
Many of these problems are rooted in the community
and can only be successfully addressed at the community level. This
is why Kham Aid Foundation is launching a new effort: The Community
How it works
A team of Kham Aid education experts visits a village and conducts
interviews of children, parents, teachers, and administrators to
find out what problems are preventing children from getting a good
education. Many education problems are amenable to existing or past
Kham Aid programs such as: renovation of the school and teacher
living quarters, grants for school equipment, teacher training,
Tibetan language books, vocational training to enhance
employability, and so forth. Other problems can be addressed
through new programs, for example by subsidizing a tractor to carry
children to school, bringing in role models to speak at the school,
or arranging medical care for sick children.
The team performs a cost-benefit analysis of the
various problems faced by the village and determines which
interventions will produce the biggest positive change. Then, we
implement these programs.
How do you, a Kham Aid supporter, support the
Community Education Initiative? By sponsoring a child in the chosen
village. In this new program, rather than simply paying the tuition
cost of a single child, your donation will be pooled with others to
help all of the children in the village. You will still receive
personal information about your particular sponsored child, however
your support will not just go for tuition, it will go for teacher
training, a school bus, a visit by a nurse, or a new school roof -
whatever that community most needs. In the past, Kham Aid worked
with the schools, but we didn't get to know the families. Family
support is crucially important for children, so in the CEI we'll be
getting to know the parents, the neighbors, and the community
leaders who shape each child's world view. And you, the sponsor,
will be getting to know them, too, through regular updates prepared
by our education team.
Cost to the sponsor: see sponsor
Number of children to be sponsored in a typical village: 20-60
Length of Kham Aid commitment to the village: six years
What we will demand of participating villages
This program will not operate as pure charity, we
demand active participation from the community that's being
helped. Quid pro quo requested from the village might consist
1. forming a Parent-Teacher Association that meets twice a year to
discuss the school and children's needs
2. headmaster and village headman agreeing to stay in their jobs for
at least three years.
3. contributed labor for school repairs
4. sharing information with Kham Aid on test scores and other
measurable outcomes such as attendance
5. complete transparency in spending of grant monies.
When does it start?
Information gathering and village selection start in the summer
of 2006, and the program will launch in early 2007.
For more information
Write to education(at)khamaid.org.
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