Understanding Communities Essential to Building Success

By Mwila Agatha Zaza

In their ongoing mandate to make sure every child receives an education, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently released Leave No Child Behind: A global report on boy’s disengagement from education. The report gives insight into the factors that keep boys from academic achievement and that keep 132 million boys out of school each year.

For many, this report will come as a surprise. Isn’t it universally accepted that girls are underrepresented in education and that it is harder for girls to remain in school?

Connect Global is helping to combat empty school desks by creating ways to keep kids in the classroom.

The report states that: for every 100 women globally, only 88 men are enrolled in tertiary education; in 73 countries, fewer boys than girls are registered in upper-secondary schools; and in at least 57, 10-year-old boys performed worse than girls at reading. Moreover, the UNESCO report also revealed that very few initiatives address boys’ disengagement from education.

It seems counterintuitive that a grave problem receives so little attention. However, a possible cause for the lack of relevant programs is that many educational interventions are based on generalizations, or rather, globalizations.

Connect Global Founders, Javier, Danielle, and Saige Mendoza, in Trujillo, Honduras

The report itself emphasizes that globally “girls continue to face severe disadvantages and inequalities in education.” It is true that overall girls face greater barriers to education than boys. Therefore, it is natural that many nonprofits design interventions in the educational sector with girls at the center.

However, the study shows a variety of reasons why boys are disengaged from school, in several countries, which highlights how education is perceived, valued, and prioritized from society to society. The report suggests that to tackle the problem of boys’ disengagement from school it is essential to jettison generalizations about how communities function.

This also applies when working with any nonprofit intervention that seeks to address socio-economic needs: in education, water, energy, or others.

To address the root cause of a socio-economic problem, nonprofits have to develop the best possible understanding of the complexities of a community, by:

  • Listening to a diverse range of community members: It’s important not to assume that a certain segment of society, such as chiefs or civil society leaders, can speak on behalf of the community. Doing so will help uncover the stories of those with the least opportunity to make themselves heard.
  • Collect qualitative data: This is done in order to back up, or counter, the quantitative data that has been collected for a community, and paint a more cohesive picture of their needs.
  • Use lessons learned elsewhere with care: Set aside preconceptions and adopt the mindset that every community is unique. Many lessons have been learned elsewhere that will shape your program more effectively, but these lessons must be used only where applicable.
Connect Global has invested in the education of boys and girls since our founding and we are expanding our Global Education Fund to help provide education to those who are marginalized and displaced from the classrooms.

Connect Global facilitates education for all students in the communities we serve

One of the key recommendations in the Leave No Child Behind report is to “Make learning gender-transformative, safe, and inclusive for all learners.”

The report identifies harsh discipline, corporal punishment, bullying, fear, and experiences of violence as well as poverty are some of the factors that make it difficult for boys to remain in class.

Through Connect Global’s Education Initiatives, we work with communities to gain a deeper understanding of what keeps children out of school. Utilizing holistic methods without generalizations allows us to help students stay enrolled, return to the classroom, and receive the life-changing education they deserve.

Mwila Agatha Zaza is an independent consultant with two decades experience in international development. Her focus is on supporting NGOs across the world in fundraising communications, including in proposal development, strategic planning and optimising digital presence.

Connect Global is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) that is creating sustainable, inclusive ways for students of all backgrounds to receive a quality education.

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Connect Global

We desire to see thousands of people positively affected by sustainable projects and for us all to have a better outlook on the globe. @iConnectGlobal