Read a dispatch from Plan Ireland’s Education Programme Officer, Annette Fuhrmann (pictured) who has just returned from a field visit to Guinea Bissau. Annette explains how a community has come together through a Plan Ireland facilitated local credit scheme, to renovate and improve their local school.
The Bafata region is one of the least developed areas in Guinea Bissau. Plan has been working in here since 1995, implementing healthcare, education and child protection programmes.
In recent years, throughout the area, Plan has begun to roll out what are known as Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) . VSLAs comprise a group of local people who save together and take out small loans from these savings. The purpose of a VSLA is to provide simple savings and loan facilities in a community that does not have easy access to formal financial services.
Sintcham-Djae is a rural community located in the Bafata region. The village’s major economic activity is agriculture and animal husbandry. For decades, the community has been hampered in its development particularly, due to the lack of adequate schooling for the village’s children.
To address this chronic problem, residents of Sinthcam-Djae created two VSLAs groups with a total of 60 members, (25 men and 35 women). Following a cycle of training in financial management, book-keeping and entrepreneurship, the group was able to save almost €1,000, 90% of which was used to renovate the dilapidated school and build an additional two classrooms.
Samba, who is a member of one of the VSLA explained the advances which have been made;
“The original school was made of wood, corn stalks and straw, meaning that it could never be used during the rainy season. Now, it can be used all year round, and we have been able to enroll additional students, increasing the number of students from 40 to 93.”
Plan also provided wooden desks, chairs and table to equip the school. We also assisted in planting a school garden which now produces sesame and beans. The sale of which is being used to pay the salaries of additional teachers.
Through local community activism, long term planning and input from Plan Ireland, things are really beginning to look up in Sintcham-Djae!