Repairing schools in the midst of war is useless, isn’t it? FCA’s education specialist Pauliina Kemppainen responds to 13 tough claims.
In front of 200 first graders in Uganda, Pauliina Kemppainen understands that it’s not always possible to complain about class size. Now, the senior education expert answers a numbers of comments that pop up on FCA’s social media. This is how Kemppainen survived on the spot.
“All children should be in school”
You’ve previously worked as a teacher, volunteered for Teachers Without Borders, and have plenty of international experience in education. You think the best thing in the world is children getting to go to school. Absolutely. Children have the right to go to school everywhere in the world, regardless of their background.
“Teachers carry a great responsibility”
Finn Church Aid trains teachers. That’s important, because teachers are raising a new generation. Most kids and young people attending education spend more time at school and with the adults at school than with their parents. The more competent and better educated the teachers are, the better their opportunities are to support the kids and adolescents they spend their days with.
“Best way to help children in developing countries is to donate notebooks and pens”
The best way to help school children is to provide schools with materials such as notebooks, pencil cases, and ABC books. The materials are a part of school, but ABC books and pencils don’t do much teaching without a trained teacher. If I had to choose between a teacher and a pencil, I’d go for a teacher every time.
“Building schools in war zones is a waste of money”
Finn Church Aid repairs schools in conflict zones. That’s not very smart, because war can damage the schools again. We use fields to grow the grain we eat. Is it smart to grow grain again? I’d say it is. Similarly, there’s a reason to repair the schools, because there will always be new children and young people who need a school to support their growth and development.
“Why only girls’ education gets support?”
At least in Finland boys are doing worse at school than girls. It’s odd that Finn Church Aid focuses so strongly on girls’ education. We focus on everyone’s education. It’s just as important for boys and men to go to school as it for is girls and women. However, girls are in a weaker position than boys to start with: their education is still obstructed in various places. In order to reach the same starting point as boys, girls need an extra boost, which we are trying to give them without hindering boys’ opportunities.
“There are children in need in Finland, too”
Why are you training people abroad? There are plenty of children and young people in Finland who need support in school. Each and every Finnish child and adolescent has the right to go to school just like children and young people in Central African Republic, Kenya, and Myanmar. In Finland, there are resources and opportunities for education even without Finn Church Aid.
“Education gets wasted if people live in mudhuts”
It makes no sense to train people living in mudhuts without a livelihood. The basics should be sorted out first. Whether the person wakes up in the morning in a house made of mud, brick, or wood has nothing to do with how skilled they are or how productive they are for society. Education is a human right and the first basic thing that needs to be fixed. Hence, we at Finn Church Aid invest in vocational training in the fields that are in demand in our regions of operation.
“Those educated with development aid never get a job”
Development co-operation is only used to train mechanics, carpenters, and hairdressers. Some of them will never be employed. Planning vocational training always begins with a market analysis, so we can outline the fields of expertise that are required locally. If the region really needs more carpenters, we’ll train carpenters – but just as many as are needed. We won’t train a thousand, if there is only need for ten. In addition to traditional professions, there is also demand for digital-based professions such as graphic designers, photographers, and web designers, which are part of today’s world but also the future.
“The use of cash distributions should be strictly decided by aid organisations”
FCA has distributed cash allowances to families. Cash is important, and it can be used to cover expenses like school transport. Cash allowances are an important form of aid, because they give families the opportunity the decide what to spend the money on. It’s part of a humane life to be able to make decisions as to how to use one’s money and be an active agent instead of a passive aid recipient.
“Wrong things are taught in schools in the developing countries”
In many schools supported by FCA the only point for education is to study the Quran or the Bible. We don’t do missionary work. We always try and co-operate with local education authorities, if it’s ethically possible and in line with international law. If we were to build a parallel education system, it would collapse after we leave. If the local curriculum contains lessons of Quran or, for example, a Buddhist faith, it’s our responsibility to enable teaching them in school. We have no right to decide what religions are taught.
“Education is important to children living in the middle of conflicts”
Education plays a significant role in rebuilding Syria and Ukraine, for example. Yes. Education is a human right, whatever the surrounding situation is. It’s not the fault of the children and young people if there’s a war raging around them. Education and going to school are important not only from an educational perspective but also for providing psychological support. Going back to school creates and re-establishes routines, brings back memories from life before war, and adds meaning to the day by offering something meaningful to do. Through vocational education we can train people in professions that are especially needed in reconstruction.
“It’s more safe to stay home in the developing countries”
Many children in developing countries must travel long and unsafe distances to attend school. It would be safer to stay home. Things can happen during school journeys – in Finland, too. Do we still choose not to send our children to school, or do we try to improve the safety of the route? People everywhere in the world think the same and aim to ensure the safety of their children’s schooling. With the help of education, people learn to read and write, which helps them be better off in the world.
Again and again, studies show that the most efficient way for families to rise from poverty is educating women. In comparison to uneducated women, educated women are more likely to send their children to school. Yes, there are risks, but are they big enough to make education not worth it?
“Finns can’t learn anything from the developing countries”
The Finnish education system is so superior in comparison to others that there’s nothing we can learn from anyone else. That’s a bold statement! Are we Finns overall so superior next to others that there are no lessons we could learn from anyone? Have we, completely on our own, created the large school reforms that form the basis of our success? Or have we maybe learned something from somewhere in order to be able to make these changes? I spent a year in Uganda as a volunteer for Teachers Without Borders. I had been trained in Finland, and I was shocked. Previously I had complained about having 24 kids in class, but in a refugee centre in Uganda, teachers had up to 200 first graders in a classroom. I had to rethink teaching entirely. For me, it was a huge learning process.
The climate crisis is real and happening now. The people we support are often at the frontline of the climate emergency. The effects of climate change impact on their access to education and increases conflict over disappearing natural resources. Here are 10+1 ways we’re acting on the climate crisis by taking responsibility to mitigate, adapt and transform.
1. Measure our impact.
The first step is to take a long hard look at ourselves. What is our own environmental impact, for example in terms of emissions caused by travel? What stress are we causing to land, communities and nature in general by developing new projects? What about the resources we use – are our procurement chains sustainable?
We are committing to a thorough analysis of our operations, identifying ways we can make better and more sustainable use of our resources. At the same time, we are mainstreaming environmental impact into our project development, as well as finding ways to adapt to the climate crisis.
2. Reduce land use change.
Building a new school is something everyone can get onboard with, right? But we need to be careful when we’re erecting new structures to be sure we’re not building in an area of natural importance. Similarly, when developing agricultural projects, we need to be aware of the land’s biodiversity and its function in the ecosystem before changing that equation.
That’s why we try to rehabilitate schools before building new ones. And when we do build new, we make a detailed assessment of the impact on the environment, and identifying ways to reduce pollution in air, soil and water.
We’re actively designing projects that break the cycle of consumption and waste, helping to address the root causes of the climate crisis. One way is to develop circular economy projects, which aim to decouple economic growth from the use of finite resources by designing waste out of the system.
Developed with our sister organisation, Women’s Bank, our innovative BUZZ project in Nepal trains women farmers to cultivate larvae from the black soldier fly as animal feed, biofuel and compost. The larvae themselves feed on waste, both from animals and humans making it a self-sustainable, no-waste product.
4. Integrate climate with other rights work.
Climate action should not stand apart from other development interventions. In fact, it should be considered a central part of all rights-based work. As part of our Right to Livelihood work, we’ve partnered with Taka Taka Solutions, a waste management company in Kenya. Funded by Women’s Bank, the project aims at improving the livelihoods of women by creating jobs with the company, while also providing them a package of employment benefits, medical cover and childcare. So far 261 women have been supported through the scheme.
Taka Taka Solutions estimates that its work saves about 100 tons of greenhouse emissions per month by reducing landfill waste. Landfills are currently the largest source of methane, which is 23 times more potent than CO2. The company are also looking to switch to solar power in the longterm.
5. Consider all environmental pressures, not just the hot topics.
The climate emergency has a high profile, and rightfully so. But that doesn’t mean we should deprioritise other environmental pressures, like pollution, biodiversity loss or nitrogen loading.
In fact, while we can arguably adapt to climate change within a certain limit, environmental damage like ocean acidification or extinction events are irreversible and with the potential to cause catastrophic consequences. That’s why we consider all environmental pressures when we look at our development projects.
Sustainability means different things not just to different people, but in different places. We listen to the local community and invite local expertise when we develop projects. Our country staff are 90 per cent local, so they can properly understand and engage.
Too often, western research into environmental impact is prioritised and western solutions proposed. While, we have a responsibility to share technology and resources, we also have a lot to learn from local ways of living and doing.
7. Listen and learn from those at the frontline.
The climate crisis is happening now and many of the world’s most vulnerable people are seeing the effects in real time, although they are the least responsible for the problem. We must make space for those at the frontlines to be heard. They are the people who are best placed to guide our climate policies and inform our actions.
In Kenya and Somalia, the worst drought in decades is destroying people’s lives and livelihoods. The cause is manmade climate change, made worse by manmade conflicts. We are acting on the everyday experiences of our staff and beneficiaries in these areas, changing our strategies to make sure we can adapt to the new reality on the ground.
8. Be realistic.
We must not lose sight of our main aim: to help people. In an emergency, of course, we must settle for the option that delivers the most positives for people in the short term. For example, if we receive a donation of plastic water bottles in a humanitarian crisis, we can recognise that both the water and the bottles will be used and not reject them.
But at the same time, we can identify how we can improve over time, changing our emergency responses and policies to benefit both people and the environment. Part of acting on the climate crisis is learning as organisation and as a sector to improve our practices.
9. Build resilience, adapt and transform.
Every time a disaster happens, we can learn from it and be better prepared for next time. In the jargon, it’s called resilience. We believe we can do better than that – we can adapt and transform, so that we are not just ready to brace for the next disaster, we can actively prevent it or develop new ways of living so that it hardly impacts at all.
That’s why we are constantly assessing how we can diversify people’s livelihoods and develop flexible ways to access education or the employment market.
10. Look into the future.
We know what’s coming. Over the next few years, we will see more extreme weather events, more water scarcity and more conflict over natural resources. That will lead to more forced migration, inflation and food shortages.
Our climate strategy is constantly evolving with the realities on the ground. We’re acting on the climate crisis today while looking at the future to better prepare for tomorrow.
+1 Our secret weapon: education
Education is not only our greatest passion, but also a great tool to mitigate climate change and create more sustainable societies. We can offer resources, support and technology, but ultimately, it’s people in their communities that can make changes. Providing them access to quality education will give the springboard to make those changes.
Text: Aly Cabrera and Ruth Owen Photo: Hugh Rutherford
In Nepal’s Far West, pig and vegetable farming is the main source of livelihood for former bonded labourers
Former bonded labourers in Nepal’s Far Western Region earn a modest living by raising pigs and growing vegetables. FCA offers support to local people to help them earn a living, but in the most impoverished villages severe drought and all-engulfing fires make life extremely challenging.
IN A NORMAL summer, the Mohana River floods across the flat terrain all the way to the village of Bipatpur. Taking vegetables across the river to India would require a boat and a skipper.
In Nepal’s Far West, the annual monsoon season usually starts in early June, but this year the rains were weeks late. For local women, crossing the border from Nepal to India seems fairly easy; all they have to do is lift up their saris, roll up their trouser legs and wade across the river. It has been scorching hot for nearly two weeks now, with temperature rising above 40 degrees.
The ground is parched, and plants and people are desperate for water. Some of the wells in the village have dried up and there is no point in looking for new ones because finding groundwater is too uncertain and the costs of digging too high.
This has been an exceptional year in more ways than one. This spring, following a disaster in April that destroyed the harvest and stores, the women of Bipatpur had nothing to sell to the Indian vegetable markets across the river.
During a normal summer the water in the Mohana river is much higher by June. The women of Bipatpur village cross the river to sell their vegetables on the Indian side. Photo: Uma Bista
“Only people were saved”
Burning crop residue on the fields to release nutrients is an annual tradition in Bipatpur. This year, an unpredictable and exceptionally strong wind caused the fire to spread quickly and uncontrollably. Houses, food containers, and livestock shelters burned down one after another. The fire destroyed or damaged the homes of 71 families and killed domestic animals.
Villagers cleared away the charred tree trunks, but the sad and disheartened feelings remain.
“Only people were saved,” the women say.
The fire also engulfed a large chunk of the village cooperative’s savings, which were kept in a box. Belmati Devi Chaudhary, 42, looks at the charred remains of her house.
“Everything is gone. All we have is emergency aid.”
A sow the family had bought with financial support from Finn Church Aid died in the fire. Without a mother to care for them, five piglets died, too. This was a huge loss for the Chaudhary family.
The money Belmati Devi Chaudhary had earned from pig farming helped her to pay for her children’s schooling. Standing next to his mother, the family’s eldest son Sanjay Chaudhary, 23, looks helpless.
“I may have to go to Kathmandu to find work. It’s difficult to get a paid job here,” he says.
For many years, scores of young Nepalese men have left for the capital city or for India in search of odd jobs, but Belmati doesn’t want her son to follow in their footsteps.
Like many others in Bipatpur and in the surrounding Kailali District, the Chaudhary family are former bonded labourers. Although Nepal’s 200-year-old Haliya and Kamayia bonded labour systems were abolished in the early 2000s, many former bonded labourers and their descendants are still very vulnerable.
Houses, food containers, and livestock shelters burned down one after another in April in the village of Bipatpur, Far West region of Nepal. The fire destroyed or damaged the homes of 71 families and killed domestic animals. Photo: Uma Bista
Sustainable livelihood with pig farming
Jumani Chaudhary, 50, is one of 29 women in a group supported by FCA. These women run a pig farm in the municipality of Gauriganga. They have learned how to make porridge for pigs from corn and wheat milling byproducts.
“By feeding pigs porridge, we save on feeding costs, and the pigs are healthier and grow faster,” Jumani Chaudhary says.
The women plan to start selling their pig feed to other pig farmers. To safeguard feed production, they would like to set up their own mill.
Gaumati Sunuwar, 56, has received support from FCA on pig farming in Amargadhi, Dadeldhura district. Photo: Uma Bista
In a pig pen, three different-coloured pigs oink and jostle for food. Sows are less than a year old when they produce their first litter. Typically they can produce two litters a year, around ten piglets each time. With the right care and nutrition, pigs grow quickly.
“A full-grown boar is worth up to 30,000 rupees,” says Bishni Chaudhary, 43.
Sanu Chaudhary, 27, who lives next door and is also a member of the women’s group, says she recently sold seven pigs for 50,000 rupees. Converted to euros, the sums seem somewhat modest: a thousand rupees equals roughly seven euros. But in the Far Western Region of Nepal, this money goes a long way. You can buy a school uniform for your child, meals for the entire school year, a water bottle and school supplies.
“Pig farming is easier and requires less work than buffalo farming. Buffaloes only produce milk part of the year, when they nurse their calves,” Jumani Chaudhary explains.
When buffaloes don’t produce milk, they produce nothing, but cost ten times the price of a pig.
“Before, we had to beg for food”
The road further west to the Dadeldhura district twists and turns along the lush green hills. Compared to the flat terrains of Kailali, Dadeldhura is topographically much more uneven. The winding road barely fits our car, giving the scenic drive an extra twist. Finally, we arrive in the village of Ganyapdhura.
We can see hints of green on the terraced farms even though the rains are late. The Dalit community living here grows cauliflower, potatoes and zucchini. Growing vegetables is more than a livelihood; it has given the community a sense of value.
“Before, we had to beg for food, but now we grow vegetables for sale,” says Gita Devi Sarki, 38.
In 2019, Finn Church Aid helped the community further improve its farming efficiency by supporting the Sarki family and 24 other local farmers in the introduction of tunnel farming. The plastic cover of the tunnel protects the vegetables from the elements and retains moisture. The community also received a walk-behind tractor, which makes plowing much easier. Gita Devi Sarki is the only woman who knows how to operate the machine – and even she needs her husband’s help to start it.
Gita Devi Sarki plows a field using a hand tractor to plant vegetables at Kholibasti, Ganyapdhura Rural municipality in Dadeldhura. The couple is now working together and hoping to expand their vegetable farming with the support they receive from FCA. Photo: Uma Bista
“Before, our farm was just big enough to produce corn and wheat for our own family. Now we can save 410 rupees each month by selling some of the vegetables we grow,” she says.
Most importantly, having a more secure livelihood meant that Gita’s husband Padam Bahadur Sarki, 42, was able to return home from India, where he worked for twenty years. The couple have been together for 22 years and have four children. Almost all this time, Gita Devi Sarki was in charge of the family’s day-to-day life, alone.
“I returned to Nepal due to the COVID-19 lockdowns,” he says.
“It’s a good thing you came back,” Gita Devi Sarki says, with a grin.
“Yeah, it’s been OK,” her husband replies, causing the group of women sitting around him to burst into laughter.
Having her husband back has reduced Gita Devi Sarki’s workload in the farms. The family plans to expand their business to raising goats and small-scale fish farming in a small pond in the valley.
Bahadur Damai, 52, (centre) with his family at Ganyapdhura Rural Municipality in Dadeldhura district received support from FCA for chicken farming. In the spring of 2022, Bahadur Damai was elected as a ward member in the local government. Photo: Uma Bista
From bonded labourer to a member of a local government
A pretty little house has a downstairs door open, and a wide-eyed cow peeks through the door. Bahadur Damai, 52, beckons to visitors to join him in the shade under a canopy. Back in the early 2000s, before the abolition of the Haliya system, he was a bonded labourer, mending other people’s clothing. Today, he smiles happily as he talks to us about his chickens and a small tailor’s shop he has opened in a nearby village centre.
Money has given his family a more stable livelihood, allowing him to buy things like a television. He has also been able to pay for the weddings of his two adult daughters, something that clearly makes him very proud.
One of his greatest achievements, however, was being elected a member of the local government in May.
“It’s all thanks to FCA that I am where I am now. I received support for vegetable and chicken farming, and I’ve been able to build relationships that won me votes in the election.” He pauses mid-sentence when a gust of wind tries to rip off the chicken coop’s corrugated iron roof. Bahadur Damai gestures at his son, telling him to put big stones on the roof to keep it in place.
“A new chicken coop would be nice,” he says. Suddenly he becomes serious.
“You know, my wife and I only have one significant difference: she has aged faster.”
The look on his face says this is not a joke.
“Women age faster here because their lives are so much harder that men’s. It is a local tradition that women eat after everyone else, whatever is left. Pregnancies, childbirths, hard physical labour…As an elected member of the local government, I intend to raise awareness of the problems women have in our communities, such as the disproportionate burden of domestic work and domestic violence,” Bahadur Damai says.
But that’s not the only thing he wants to draw attention to. In this district, former bonded labourers are still not eligible for the Nepali government rehabilitation programme, which promises them land ownership, education for children, and employment opportunities for young people.
Charred trees are a reminder of the fire that brought the small village of Bipatpur to its knees in April. Photo: Uma Bista
Bank accounts secure the future
In Bipatpur, the village women have gathered together under a canopy. In fact, this used to be a house, one of the women points out. The charred roof beams have been removed and replaced with new ones. At noon, the sun is beating down, and the temperature in the shade is approaching forty degrees. It turns out that the name of the village, Bipatpur, means disaster in the local language. This village has certainly had its fair share of disasters, from floods to fires.
But perhaps today things will take a turn for the better. Representatives of the local government and the bank will be visiting the village. With support from FCA, every family that lost their house in the spring fire will receive a humanitarian cash transfer. For those whose homes were damaged to some degree, 13,500 rupees, or about 106 euros, will be offered for reconstruction, and those who suffered the greatest losses will receive 34,500 rupees, or 270 euros. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, families and the elderly will receive an additional 500 rupees.
For the first time, cash transfers will be paid to women’s own bank accounts. This ensures that their money is safe, and that even if another disaster strikes the village, not all of their possessions will be gone.
Text: Elisa Rimaila Photos: Uma Bista Translation: Leni Vapaavuori
Finn Church Aid has had a country office in Nepal since 2013. Our work focuses on providing income opportunities for former bonded labourers, on ensuring the realisation of their rights, and on improving women’s livelihoods. After the earthquake in 2015, we built safe school facilities for 44,000 children, trained teachers and supported mental recovery. In 2021, we took action to alleviate the food insecurity affecting nearly 18,000 people as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Elisha Chaudhary sleeps while her mother Sajita Chaudhary is attending a meeting at Bipatpur. Photo: Uma Bista
Various organisations have been engaged in development cooperation for decades; Finn Church Aid for as long as 75 years. While global efforts to reduce child mortality and to increase girls’ access to education have been successful, mistakes have also been made. We listed 10+1 lessons learned in development cooperation over the years.
1. From selfish beginnings.
The 1950s and 1960s were the early days of development cooperation. Back then, Finland’s eagerness to participate stemmed partly from the need to distance ourselves from the Soviet Union and instead be identified as a Western country and as part of the Nordic countries. Over time, development cooperation adopted traits from export promotion: Finland used money intended for development aid to export Finnish machinery and workforce to developing countries, hoping to increase trade in equipment such as forest machines. Many other countries had similar projects.
2. Lack of results necessitated a different approach.
It soon became painfully clear that the modernisation-driven development cooperation model failed miserably, and a new approach was needed. This was when the needs-based approach emerged. But although local beneficiaries were consulted for needs assessment purposes, donors failed to understand the structures and systems that perpetuate poverty and simply saw beneficiaries as passive victims of circumstances.
3. Material assistance is not the way to address inequality.
Today, development cooperation is no longer about addressing poverty as a material need but rather as a human rights issue. Political advocacy can also contribute towards eradicating structural inequality in developing countries, with the objective of creating an effective and informed civil society and an accountable state. Unlike in the early days, the focus is not on supporting industry; instead, social development, health and education are now in the forefront.
4. Strong communities will not depend on external aid.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson we have learned is that there is no point in giving man a fish; you need to teach him how to fish. In other words, our work must be aimed at building on and strengthening local capacities. It is extremely important to discard any forms of aid that create a risk of dependency instead of forging stronger local communities. Paradoxically, however, financing decisions are still made somewhere else. It is funding providers in the western countries who decide how much money will be given to which projects.
5. Giving a voice to the local community.
In some cases, the aid we provide is not what people really need. Sometimes people affected by a crisis may feel that they have not been consulted on what kind of assistance they need, or what would be the best way to channel it. In the worst cases, relief supplies have been unsuitable for the local culture. Modern development cooperation recognises the key importance of local engagement and ownership.
6. Better control and accountability.
Organisations in the development cooperation sector are accountable to their beneficiaries as well as to their funding providers and donors. Recently, there has been much talk about transparency. In the humanitarian sector, the concept of the accountability of aid organisations to their beneficiaries emerged in the 1990s, and the Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability (CHS) was published in 2015. Similarly, technical standards for aid work are being developed and monitored more closely.
7. Climate must be a key consideration in development cooperation.
Environmental work has been a part of development cooperation since the 1970s, but more recently climate has begun to dominate public discussion. The loss of biodiversity is now also on the agenda but while the importance of climate work is recognised, so far policymakers have failed to put their money where their mouth is. Another contradiction that characterises climate work is the reluctance of western countries to compromise on their standard of living while they expect climate action from developing countries.
8. Public opinion supports development cooperation.
In the late 1960s, the Vietnam War made Finns realise that we are not an island. Other subsequent events such as the 1990s recession have shaped the opinions and attitudes of citizens, including their support for development cooperation. According to a recent survey by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, two thirds of Finns consider development cooperation very important or fairly important. For Finns, the most important reason for supporting development cooperation is that it offers Finland a way to strengthen global stability.
9. New partners, new tools.
Today, development cooperation cuts across multiple sectors, with more traditional actors working with research and educational institutions to improve effectiveness and outcomes. Another, more recent development is cooperation with the private sector. Corporate social responsibility provides opportunities for employment and education in developing countries.
10. Change must be constant.
We have learned many lessons, but there is still room for improvement. Sometimes organisational and funding silos can negatively affect efficiency, and putting documented commitments and declarations into practice may take years. Staying relevant is another challenge for western development cooperation, as there is no shortage of competitors. China, for instance, provides funding to many developing countries without making any demands on human rights and environmental protection.
+1: CHS certification a compass for FCA’s work.
In 2017, Finn Church Aid received the Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) certification, which emphasises our human rights-based approach and the quality, transparency, and effectiveness of our programme work. It also proves our commitment to the humanitarian sector’s quality and accountability standards. In addition to CHS certification, FCA undergoes an extensive external audit annually. CHS provides us an opportunity and a tool for critically assessing our operations and improving our practices and procedures.
Sources: Anna Muinonen, Senior Quality and Accountability Adviser at Finn Church Aid; Juhani Koponen, Professor Emeritus from the University of Helsinki; development cooperation surveys commissioned by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Corehumanitarianstandard.org
Former school dropout Agnes found her way back from selling fish to prosper in her classroom
To compensate the lost years of young school dropouts, FCA implements the Accelerated Education Programme in five refugee-hosting districts in Uganda.
AGNES KAIRANGWA, 20, was in senior two at Bujubuli secondary school in Kyaka II refugee settlement when she became pregnant.
“The father of my baby convinced me to drop out of school and become his wife. However, a year into the marriage, everything turned bitter as my husband started to mistreat me,” Agnes now says.
“It got to a point when I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I left the marriage and returned to my father’s home. I started selling silver fish in the market to get money to take care of my baby.”
Born in a family of five, Agnes Kairangwa is the youngest child of a single parent household. Two of her elder siblings have already completed Secondary Education. The rest of her brothers and sisters are still in school.
Seven years have passed since Agnes dropped the school and she is now a mother of two. Listening to her siblings talk about their classes and what they have learned in school has made Agnes feel left out.
“Even though deep down I felt I wanted to go back to school, I knew it was impossible as I had spent many years out of class, and I felt I was too old to return to school.
One afternoon, while Agnes was at her market stall, she heard a radio announcement from Finn Church Aid (FCA) calling and encouraging adolescent mothers to return to school.
“They stressed the importance of education and I felt encouraged to return to school,” she tells.
Unfortunately, she couldn’t afford to pay fees for herself. She had just enrolled her young daughter in school and all the money from her business was going to be spent in the child’s scholastic fees and other needs.
Finally, with support from FCA, Agnes was enrolled at Bukere Secondary School. FCA staff members also visited Agnes’ father and encouraged him to support her education.
Accelerated Education project supports those who have lost years of school
There are many young women like Agnes Kairangwa. To speed up the learning after years spent out of school, FCA implements the Accelerated Education Programme (AEP) in five refugee-hosting districts of Kyegegwa, Kikuube, Isingiro in South Western Uganda and Terego and Madi Okollo in West Nile. The programme is funded by European Union Humanitarian aid (ECHO).
The programme is an integral part of the Innovative and Inclusive Accelerated Education project (INCLUDE) and it uses specially designed and condensed version of the Ugandan curriculum. By covering two to three grades of primary education in one year and using teaching methods appropriate for different age groups, learners who have lost many school years can transit into the formal schooling system.
“Sometimes I would dodge school”
Going back to school is not easy.
“During the first weeks at school, I found it challenging and wanted to drop out, but officers from Finn Church Aid kept encouraging me to stay in school,” says Agnes.
“Considering the years spent out of school, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to catch up. I was also afraid my schoolmates would body shame me as I had gained weight and I was older than them,” she says.
Adding to her agony in the beginning, Agnes’ ex-husband kept approaching her on her way to school, trying to convince her to drop it and get married again.
“Sometimes I would dodge school, so I didn’t have to meet him on the way,” she tells.
“I appreciate the Finn Church Aid staff who kept encouraging me and providing me with the moral and psychosocial support.”
Not only is Agnes now studying but performing well in her class. FCA got her a full education scholarship through the UN Refugee Agency, and she is working hard to be an accountant in one day.
Finn Church Aid implements the INCLUDE programme in a consortium of four partners including Save the Children, Norwegian Refugee Council, War Child Holland and Humanity and Inclusion.
“This is my decision” – Story of an independent business woman inspires others in Somaliland
Naciima found her way to make her dreams come true while attending to FCA’s Technical and Vocational Education Training.
WHAT DOES an independent businesswoman look like?
Naciima, who recently graduated from Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programme, is a perfect example. She lives with her family of eleven in Gacan Libaax in Somaliland. They have a very limited income and her father, though he struggles to pay her school fees, has always encouraged her to find something she is passionate about.
“After deciding to drop out from the university, I put my entire focus on the training that I was getting. It was sensational and the most skillful experience I have ever gotten before,” says Naciima, who joined the Finn Church Aid’s TVET program recently.
She got to know about the course from one of her friends who went to the Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee TVET Center. When deciding to apply, she says she felt at peace.
“My dream has always been to design clothes – coming up with ways to make them look fashionable. It was a dream come true when I found out about the training and I immediately joined without consulting my family. However, afterwards I told them about my decision.”
“Without the training I would not have become the woman I am today”
Naciima says that she gained skills from the tailoring course, including how to start business and practical tailoring skills. During the training, she was inspired by two things. Firstly, the way to come up with new designs and, secondly, the profits she could be make, especially since tailoring skills are in demand the country.
Naciima has become an advocate for TVET and wants to explain the benefits of it and how it leads to profit making.
“Without the training I would not have become the woman I am today – a business woman, an independent woman, and career-oriented individual.”
After graduating from the program, Naciima and the other graduates, received business start-up grants and equipment that helped her to start a business that could also support her family. Her idea was to start a tailoring shop that produces fresh looks in women’s clothing. She knew that the majority of ladies in Somaliland liked to wear tailored clothes and knowing her market helped her come up with her designs.
High hopes for the future
Within the first three months, the business was booming and made a decent profit. She hopes that in future she can support her family even more. At the moment she supports family in other ways than just financially – she makes clothes for her younger siblings. Some of her earning go into servicing her machines but her support for her family motivates her siblings and helps them to believe that they too can start a business and support the family in future.
Naciima is optimistic about the future and dreams of hiring more people for her business to meet the growing demand. This woman, who had waited to be supported by her family, has now become the one who supports them.
“I am able to save the money; average $100–150 in month,” she says. This is what a successful businesswoman looks.
Worst drought in forty years and aid cuts causehunger for millions in East Africa
The worst drought in forty years is hitting East Africa, pushing many in the region to the brink of famine. Despite the situation, governments across the Europe, including Finland, are cutting funding from development budgets and reallocating it to Ukraine. Tackling one crisis at the cost of another is not a sustainable solution.
IN KENYA, an assessment conducted by Finn Church Aid (FCA) revealed that some main water sources – rivers, boreholes, water pans and shallow wells – have insufficient water for both humans and livestock. Many boreholes are already dry, forcing people to travel over seven kilometers to collect water. Almost one million head of livestock have died in Garissa county in Kenya.
In Somalia, armed clashes, terrorist attacks, growing prices of food commodities are increasing the hardship caused by the drought.
“Aid actors are afraid that violence is making access to hard-to-reach communities even more limited, even to assess what the needs are, and we fear the worst,” said Ikali Karvinen, FCA Country Director, Somalia.
Climate change is a man-made crisis
FCA is assisting people in Kenya and Somalia with cash transfers, particularly to families without adult members or those headed by pregnant or lactating mothers, which will allow these people to buy food until the rainy season. However, the World Food Programme reports that 13 million people are facing acute food insecurity and severe water shortages in East Africa.
“This is another man-made crisis, just like Ukraine, except that the cause of the drought is climate change,” said Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director, FCA. “Those of us who still remember the famine in Ethiopia in the ‘80s are haunted by it. This is a similar event across a larger scale, but we have the means to prevent the suffering that the ‘80s famine caused.”
While climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of weather events, the funding needed to aid those who suffer is decreasing. Simultaneously, governments in Europe are reallocating funding to Ukraine. In 2017, 10% of development funding from Finland was spent on humanitarian programmes. In 2022, it is anticipated to be only 7% with the Finnish government planning to further slash aid levels for 2023.
Tackling one crisis while increasing instability somewhere else is not a sustainable solution. Concurrently these decisions seriously harm the relations created with developing countries.
“Developed countries, those who are largely responsible for climate change, must take responsibility for this. We must help those who are suffering because of it,” said Hemberg.
The impact of the war in Ukraine isn’t limited to Europe
The war in Ukraine not only transformed European security policy – it also has global effects that can bring about new security threats. Whilst we support Ukraine and tackle a humanitarian crisis in Europe, the wider consequences of the war must be noted, too.
By various measures, the world has taken a turn for the better in the past few decades. Economic developments, investments in public services, and development co-operation for its part have been successful. Extreme poverty has halved, an increasing number of girls go to school, and the global child mortality rate has decreased, although the differences between countries remain sizeable.
The covid-19 pandemic has undermined human development significantly, and the need for humanitarian aid around the world is at a historic high. Lengthy school closures have led to enormous learning loss particularly in developing countries, where the opportunities for providing remote teaching have been limited. In Finn Church Aid’s countries of operation, for example in Uganda, schools were closed for two years.
The war in Ukraine has raised the prices of food and fuel, which undermines food security in developing countries, already weakened by the pandemic and climate crisis. The food crisis also has an immense impact on education. Longstanding positive progress is about to grind to a halt and extreme poverty is on the rise again. An increasing number of countries are threatened by a prolonged and deepening crisis.
“Longstanding positive progress is about to grind to a halt and extreme poverty is on the rise again.”
The food crisis increases the likelihood of more and more children and young people suspending or quitting their studies. In poor households living off small-scale farming, children and young people are needed for work and making a living for their families. Girls are particularly at risk of having to drop out of school, because growing poverty leads to a rise in the number of child marriages and teenage pregnancies.
In addition, governments in Finland and some other European countries are planning cuts on development funding or reallocating funds to Ukraine. Dealing with one crisis in a way that threatens to increase instability in other nearby areas is a poor solution, as well as damaging important partnerships with developing countries.
For the European Union, building equal partnerships with developing countries, such as African states, should be an important strategic direction. In a multipolar world, developing countries can choose their partners too. Democracy, human rights and a rule-based international community are best promoted through equal partnerships. The warmer welcome to Ukrainian refugees in comparison to those from elsewhere has been noted around the world. Compare also the EU recently being unwilling to compromise on questions that African states find important, such as patent waivers on covid-19 vaccines and treatments, and migration issues.
The war in Europe only emphasises the fact that investments in education, livelihood, conflict prevention, peace work, and genuine partnerships are the most effective and affordable forms of crisis management. As a counterbalance, there is a danger of growing instability in the vicinity of Europe. This is not unavoidable, if we’re ready to invest in positive solutions.
The author is the Executive Director of Finn Church Aid.
Somaliland tailoring students graduate with flair in their homemade gowns
The students, majority of them women, accepted their qualifications in professional tailoring and garment design.
70 PROUD WOMEN and men graduated from our latest vocational training course in Somaliland in early December. The students, majority of them women, accepted their qualifications in professional tailoring and garment design at a ceremony in Maansoor, as their friends and family watched.
The course was part of a vocational training project funded by FCA and implemented by the General Assistance and Volunteer Organization (GAVO) and the Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee (HAVOYOVO).
Suhur Yusuf, a young and talented graduate, spoke about how the course changed her life, sporting her handmade gown.
“On the day of my university graduation, I nearly spent USD 200 on the graduation outfit, but today I spent just USD 10 on the dress, which I tailored with my own hands. ”
Every student tailored their own gown in an incredible display of how much they’d learned on the course.
“Aside from these stunning dresses, what strikes me is how you blended colors to create a really attractive ensemble, demonstrating how our efforts are fruitful,” said Sahra-Kiin, an FCA representative.
Sustainable livelihood skills for the future
In addition to the students’ families and friends, the ceremony was attended by high level guests, such as Abdirashid Ibrahim, Director of Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs.
“I’d like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Finnish government, which is not only sponsoring this project but also many other development initiatives to support the Somaliland Government’s Development Plans, ” he said.
Also in attendance were Ahmed Omar and Abdillahi Hassan, Executive Directors from GAVO and HAVOYOCO, who welcomed guests and explained to the audience the unique nature of this particular course wasn’t confined to the beautiful garments on display. They celebrated that an outstanding 46 students working in 12 groups had been chosen for start-up grants, while the others receive toolkits to help with their own businesses.
Finally Qani Abdi, a representative of the Somaliland private sector discussed the importance of tailoring skills and gave a taste of how the graduates could turn their skills into a profitable business in the future. “I am impressed by the designs you have displayed. That tells the advanced training you have received. ”
Girls’ education gains ground in Somalia’s hard-to-reach area
Five thousand learners enrolled in school in Hudur in one of the first education interventions in the area, supported by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). Almost half of the learners were girls.
Parents in Somalia’s rural areas have traditionally not valued education, and if the opportunity exists, families typically send only their boys to school. As a result, the interventions in the education sector were few when FCA launched its program in six schools in Hudur in June 2020.
FCA started implementing the education project funded by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) by launching mass awareness-raising campaigns on the importance of education. In addition, community meetings and the forming of local education committees increased the engagement of people.
Child marriage is one of the most significant barriers to girls’ education in areas such as Hudur. Becoming a caretaker of the family and a mother can end their chances of progressing at school.
Poverty is another obstacle to sending children to school. However, within this program, education is free, and the quality of learning is ensured through teacher training and quality learning materials. As a result, the project reached its goal of enrolling five thousand learners. The learners include 2,387 girls, almost half of the total. To keep girls in school during menstruation, 806 girls received monthly sanitary kits. In addition, older boys and girls were given gender-sensitive recreational materials.
Muna Mohamed Haydar, 17, washes her hands outside the school. She says, “My teachers are good and teach well. Math is my favorite subject because I enjoy doing calculations. It is important for us to attend school. Education will help us build a bright future.”
Teacher Lul Mohamed Nur is responsible for the protection and safety of the students. She encourages girls to receive good education. Today, the number of girls is higher than the number of boys in my school. She tells that, “we have achieved this after conducting relentless awareness in the neighborhood, telling families the importance of sending their girls to schools. We give special attention to learners with disabilities. They are often allocated seats at the front of the classroom.”
Hawa Isak Warsame, 16, tells, “my parents couldn’t afford to pay for my school fees but since it is free and they give us uniforms and other learning materials. I am keen to take advantage of this opportunity to educate myself.” Her favourite subject is English and she would like to work for a humanitarian organisation in the future. She also praises the safety of the school: “If one of the learners feel threatened they can submit their complaint into the box FCA has brought us. This really given me and my classmates a strong sense of safety.”
Suleqo Hassan Adan, 10, tells, “I like math because it is easy for me. I want to become a well-known engineer and rebuild my country or a teacher to help those in need in the community.” She also has a strong opinion about equality: “Education is important for everyone whether be it a boy or a girl. Parents must give equal opportunity to their children.”
Hamaro Mohamed Nur is Suleqo’s mother. “My daughter has been attending the school for a year. I always encourage her to go to the school and learn something. At first she used to resist but now she got used to it and she likes going to the school. Her interest has increased since she received uniform and learning materials. She has a lot of energy for her books now. My daughter is a child with special needs, she cannot see well due to her albinism. She told me the teachers make her sit next to the blackboard so that she sees what is written on the board. She really likes her teachers.”
Mohamed Hassan Abdirahman teaches English to internally displaced pupils. “I was motivated by the need of my community. There was no school in the area before we came up with the idea of establishing this learning center. All of the children here were out of school, so I decided to take action along with like-minded friends. As for the learners with disabilities, we pay special attention to them. We try to listen their demands and protect them from bullying. Safety and protection of the students is of high priority for us” and adds that it can protect girls from early marriages.
Zainab Abdullahi Ahmed, 10, goes to school for accelerated basic education (ABE) and says that she enjoys learning new things. “My teachers help me a lot. I don’t feel any problems attending the classes.” She also wants to help others in the future: “When I grow up, I want to become a doctor.”
Maryan Warsame tells that her child has been attending the school for five years. She says that, “as a parent, I am grateful for helping to educate my daughter. Here we consider teachers as second parents and indeed they are second parents because they treat our kids as their own.” She tells that, “I have both daughters and sons and I send all of them to school, but I am more confident in my daughters. An educated girl will always be helpful to her parent.”
Bashir Moallin Mohamed, 18, says he is very ambitious about his education. He praises the teacher for being kind and highly qualified. “English is my favorite subject because I am good at the grammar. I hope to speak good English soon. I want to become a teacher like my teachers and educate the the people in need in the community.”