The impact of community education cannot be overrated. Such programs develop the capacity of individuals and groups of all ages and improve their quality of life.
In fact, the lack of this education, or even basic awareness leads to financial deprivation, low quality of education, family conditions, religious constraints etc. – all part of a continuous vicious cycle, one following the other or one begetting the other. Even if someone wants to break free from this cycle, it will be an uphill task, and those with the most potential have to go to great lengths to procure a decent opportunity for themselves.
That is where we come in, offering a parallel learning opportunity combined with opportunities for holistic development. Our education programs enable individuals and communities to make positive changes while being supported by community-based learning and activities in the community.
Thus, core characteristics of community education are:
- Working and learning in a partnership
- Participation and equal rights
- Empowerment and self-efficacy confidence
- Inclusion of disadvantaged groups
- Process-oriented access*
These programmes and activities are developed in dialogue with communities and participants. Asian Aid’s partner in Nepal – CAED – has been in the thick of community education in the remotest parts of the country.
“Activities such as visiting newly married couples, pregnant women, post-natal women and uterine prolapse survivors, mobilizing children through child clubs, change agent groups, advocacy campaigns and networking have contributed towards changing the circumstances of many and overcoming their challenges,” says Samita Pradhan, Director of CAED. “Addressing sexual reproductive health and promoting child rights has led to an increase in the number of adolescent girls and children accessing health services from local health facilities. In this quarter, 34% of adolescent girls from schools in our program had access to sexual reproductive health services.”
While health is a critical cog in the rural community education machine, job and lifeskills top the charts in urban communities such as where Oasis India and Helping Hand Welfare Society work. Equipping people with computer literacy and English proficiency has given them a slight advantage in procuring better job opportunities. Further, students are regularly exposed to other activities and programmes that widens their perception of life. For instance, they are part of community awareness programmes such as rallies and street plays outside the class environment, while within the confines of the course they are escorted through sessions on health, Aids, environment protection, gender equality, economic- socio- political issues etc,. as well as self-development activities like presentations, art work or skits, resume building, and mock interviews.
These participative tasks are crucial, and hence deliberate, since community education can only succeed if the requirements of individuals in the community are addressed. As Paulo Freire said, we should not act on one another, but rather work with each other.