From Material Support to Comprehensive Intervention: An approach towards a bright future

In  my last blog post, which focused on the workshop held in Mubuga sector as part of 2012 summer Human Rights Program, I highlighted some crucial education needs that would be addressed in order to improve the situation among potters’ communities also known as Historically Marginalized People (HMP). Those were setting up the space to dialogue education concerns regularly, a need of feeding program and school materials as well.

After reviewing two researches, one studied living conditions among marginalized people across the country and another one which evaluated the challenges to development as well as potentials present HMP in Nyaruguru District, one of the Southern Province districts, Rwanda. I would like to share some figures and thoughts about education and discuss on some issues mentioned as causes of the prevailing patterns.

Before going into details, I want to make a brief recall about historic background of HMP. They are people who, for a long period of time, lived a forest based life characterized by hunting and gathering. Today they constitute poor communities throughout the country with critical living conditions since early 1970s when they were expelled from forests without compensations let alone adequate integration programs that would have enabled them to adapt to newly imposed culture of living.

As far as education is concerned, following are some statistics about school enrollment and dropout rates as well. Research revealed that 76% aged 5 and over are illiterate and out of 51% who were able to attend school, only 34% continued whilst 23.7% being able to read. The study conducted particularly in Nyaruguru district found 88% to be illiterate and only 22% of children of school age were going to school. Researches also provide information about reasons behind those figures amongst which on the top are marginalization, lack of financial means and lack of support from parents’.

Through the remaining part of this post, I would like to focus on issues of marginalization and lack of parents support for the following reasons: 1) those are issues that lack attention (interventions concentrate on material side) 2) their solution would probably require less resources, 3) should they be resolved it could contribute to addressing other issues, 4) financial means could be easily seen as the most challenge whilst it is not. 

To date, interventions which have been implemented to address challenges facing marginalized people are financially related. For instance the advocacy work for HMP led by COPORWA has resulted in creation of associations for income generating activities, issuance of poverty certificates from MINALOC so that children can attend school without paying school fees, and provision of materials particularly to assist them who graduate from vocational training schools to start up their livelihood projects.  Additional to that, there might have been interventions from different organizations whose activities as well as impact were not documented, due to mainly lack of communication between those partners and COPORWA. 

However, despite interventions that might have been taken place irrespective of their area of intervention and whether was documented or not, there is a long way to go, a bright future for HMP is still in dreams and its realization would necessary require the change in current patterns of education figures for which the involvement of parents is substantial.   

When you read that amongst top causes of low rates of school enrollment and high dropout rates concerns lack of support from parents many thoughts come promptly.  I wonder what happens in the morning or when children come back from school. Normally in the morning parents help children by waking them up, helping them to wash, providing clothes and school materials, etc.  Put simply helping them to get ready. When children come back from school mainly parents are interested to know what happened at school through questions intended to know new subjects learnt, the kind of relationship between their children with teachers as well as colleagues, if there is homework given and so forth. Is there the kind of support that children from HMP communities get from their parents? If parents mostly illiterate could not offer that, who else can do that? Is there any mentor available? What happens on proclamation day when other children are accompanied by their parents or relatives? How far can children from HMP communities go?

It often happens that children get bored with school and they start to miss classes in favor of street wandering, and sometimes get lost in child labor, isn’t it what happens with those children? Is there someone to look after them and tell them that they need to go school to keep their dreams alive?  Let alone what they might face at school which was referred to, in researches, as marginalization that needs detailed investigation in order to discern disguised actions from various actors which lead to marginalization. Here I wonder if children from HMP are negatively treated compared to their colleagues, or are they denied their rights? Then if it is true there is a need to know specific actions that make those children feel that way.

Briefly, this is a problem which dates too long, thus needs a long-term solution. It needs more than simply material assistance. There is a need of comprehensive and regular interventions economic, psychological, social support, etc. to ensure its sustainability. And to achieve that beneficiaries need to be involved all along the way, they need to be heard, what their needs, feelings, passions are? Then the next interventions would be designed to meet their needs.

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