Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Setbacks and success – First-hand experience of the co-jointed best friend and worst enemy of development!

As the final week has begun on the project, you find yourself looking to both the past and the future. You look back to see how the project has progressed over the last 7 weeks. What impact you have made on the project. Then you start to look to the future, your hopes for the project once you hand over the reins. 

Over this team it feels like ‘Students for Schooling’ has had a lot of changes. For any project to be sustainable, the communities that are involved in the project need to own the project, to choose the direction and ensure that the project caters for their needs and wishes. We wished to really focus on personalising the project to the schools involved. Volunteers will come and go, but for the project to have a stable future the schools need to become solely involved in S4S, to be passionate and proud about being part of the project. The way in which we proposed to do this was by twinning one donor school with one beneficiary school. We created a pilot scheme.

At times work on the project has been frustrating, we all knew that development work can be slow. Sustainable projects take time, and with the draw backs we faced some days it felt that we were going backwards. We had significant setbacks with transport, which lead to many meetings and organised work in the field having to be postponed (pushing the progress back) or worse cancelled. But these times are when you realise how much working on the project means to you. The saying ‘there is no such thing as can’t’ become a frequent reference. We were passionate about the project, hoping that this will soon also be felt by the schools involved. 

After experiencing one too many setbacks it was fair to say that we became disillusioned with the progress that we were making. As we got closer to the end of the placement we began attempting to organise a donation. We hoped this to be with schools in the pilot scheme, and with that wished to include some students from one of the privileged schools in making the donation with us at their partnership school. 

All organisations were underway, again with several setbacks. Just when it was starting to look unlikely to be pulled off, even Jill the ever optimist was starting to doubt whether we could make the donation, we got a call the day before the planned donation from the chosen privileged school. The school said that they were going to be coming on the donation the next day, with four students and one teacher to accompany us. This call came just at the right time. The smiles were back on our faces as we hurriedly bagged up the uniforms which we had carefully washed and mended one Saturday. 

Jill and Yeni hard at work washing some uniforms for the donation

The donation day turned out to be a great success. In total there were around 50 uniforms donated and close to 100 textbooks. . The students from the privilege school got fully involved in the donation, asking lots of questions to the head teacher of the underprivileged school. For them, and Lou too, it was a really eye-opener to how basic and under resourced the school was. In one classroom there were 4 different classes for the teacher to take. The school had one cupboard which was all the resources they had. The privileged students were more involved than we could have imagined. They expressed the wish to create a children’s club with the local charity we work for, and wished to have greater involvement in the project. When we returned to the privileged school and spoke to the head teacher, she showed great interest in working closer with their partner school. By the end of that day the head teachers had already spoken on the phone and discussed future interactions.

Students and staff from two partner schools working together to find the right sizes in uniforms and shoes 

In this day we went from disillusioned to proud, proud of the way that both schools have adopted the partnership scheme. Proud that the numerous hours of office work and setbacks we had finally paid off. Proud that what we have done has created a ripple effect which we hope will only grow with strength in the future.

Me and Jill finally establishing the first official partnership in the Pilot scheme


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