Improving the Shortage of Teaching and Learning Supplies
One of the biggest challenges facing developing countries is the shortage of educational resources. The largest input in educational systems is teachers, but additional major inputs include teaching and learning materials.
Based on information taken from a survey conducted in both government and private schools in Sierra Leone, one of the areas in which teachers felt most disadvantaged is related to the shortage of teaching and learning materials in classrooms and public libraries. Teachers have to develop their own books because reading materials do not exist. They also develop other teaching resources with limited guidance and even have to locate or beg for writing materials for students whose families cannot afford to purchase them. Teachers’ continuous efforts to source basic teaching and learning materials take a significant amount of time away from their lesson planning and preparations for teaching students in the 21st century.
This program has two ongoing focuses: 1) increasing school supplies in primary schools and 2) increasing access to learning materials in Sierra Leone’s public libraries.
Why School Supplies?
While fees for primary schools have been abolished in Sierra Leone, primary education is not completely free. Schools charge numerous unofficial fees in addition to the hidden costs associated with travel, uniforms, extracurricular activities, tutorials, exercise books and supplies, among other expenses. The cost to the child’s family also includes the work that he or she may have done to support his or her family during school hours; this usually has an impact on school enrollment rates.
In the Sierra Leone Integrated Household Survey, economic difficulties are cited as one of the primary reasons why children do not attend school. Basic school supplies in Sierra Leone are considered a luxury that many parents cannot afford due to a lack of financial resources. As a result, many children cannot attend school and, therefore, remain at home.
By supplying school materials to primary school children, we aim to reduce the barriers that adversely impact primary school enrollment and to increase the retention rate of primary school age students in Sierra Leone.
In Sierra Leone, Education for Hope provides the most financially disadvantaged students with supplies, such as backpacks, pens, pencils, erasers, crayons, uniforms, and notepads.
This initiative reduces the financial burden on poor families who send their children to school
The role of libraries in supporting education is further solidified in the research conducted by the Association for College and Research Libraries, which found that the presence of libraries improves university-level research output and increases the capacity of the local publishing industry. (Africa produces only 2% of the world’s books despite accounting for 12% of the global population.)
In the context of developing countries, the limited financial capacity of national governments and donors, as well as limitations related to administrative skills, have contributed to inadequate library facilities at best and the absence of libraries at worst. Libraries play a key role in creating literate environments and promoting literacy by providing access to relevant print materials (Krolak 2005).
Furthermore, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization states that:
“The goal of Education for All also involves the development of literate societies in the developing world, and cannot be attained solely by providing quality learning materials to schools. If people are to stay literate, they must have access to a wide variety of written materials and continue the habit of reading in their adult lives” (UNESCO: Basic).
At the 2002 United Nations World Summit, the National Council for Science and Environment defined the role of libraries as follows:
- To foster collaborative partnerships;
- To increase community awareness; and
- To direct the energies of library organizations toward supporting sustainability.
The overall aim is to improve access to teaching and learning materials by supplying learning materials to Sierra Leone’s public libraries, to enable the libraries to be used as access points and community-based centers.
In Sierra Leone, Education for Hope partners with community members to conduct needs assessments and to determine the best way to support environments that promote literacy and lifelong learning.
This program is informed by policy recommendations from the “Education for All Global Monitoring Report: Literacy for Life.”