5 important planning considerations for educational facilities in rural areas

Definition of rural area

National Geographic defines rural as an area where the population density is very low in comparison to an urban area. The primary industry for most rural areas is agriculture as there are large plots of land surrounding their houses. People living in the rural community often work on fields or farms to earn a source of income for their families. In many rural areas that focus on agriculture such as fishing, livestock and farming, children are made to start work from as young as 5 years old. This amounts to a shocking over 98 million working boys and girls from ages 5 to 17 years old! 

Importance of education in rural areas 

Did you know that a strong primary and secondary education system will actually improve a country’s economic performance? Countries with quality education will produce more educated workers with higher levels of critical thinking and literacy. These rural areas are stuck in a vicious cycle where they cannot focus on education as poverty is so prominent. The fundamental building block of a society is an education system, however these communities are extremely underdeveloped as they do not even have basic things like a stable internet connection. 

For us, education is a basic given necessity. We are gifted with a robust schooling experience before we decide what we want to pursue in our future careers. From the tender age of preschool till university, our education system has been fine tuned to mould children into future leaders of the country. Curriculum covers a wide range of industries, from engineering to entrepreneurship, not forgetting extracurricular activities such as sports, arts or a second language. 

A part time job for a schooling teenager could range from waiting tables to folding clothes in a departmental store. The pocket money earned would usually be for an extra cup of Starbucks or to keep up with the latest fashion trend. But these underprivileged young children on the other hand, do physical labour that is actually hazardous. Some of them also do not get paid as they are just helping their families put food on the table. 

Most families have to choose between letting their children go to school or go to work on the field. Sadly, the deciding factor is usually the state of how poor the family is. With the current quality of the education system and the culture of the rural community, some families would rather their children help them earn some income than to learn English, a language they may never use.

In order to improve the quality of living for these people, one of the main steps is major improvements in the education system. Research has shown that education has a direct impact on reducing poverty, improving health, longevity and quality of living. Education also increases social participation which improves the community, attracting more investors, and thus helping the economy prosper. 

5 Planning Considerations of Education in Rural Areas 

Implementing a good education system cannot be done with the snap of a finger. There are many things wrong with the current systems in place that need help but are not as easy to fix. Rural areas tend to have these common characteristics. Poor attendance, high dropout rates, poor quality of school infrastructure, limited resources, low quality curriculum, low levels of educational achievement, lack of qualified teachers, little or no access to technology or the internet, and the list goes on. Now that we know how vital a good education system is for these rural areas, we have highlighted 5 main issues that should be looked at as planning considerations to improve education for these children. 

  1. Poverty Effect 

Some Governments like Myanmar have put in efforts to promote education by making primary and secondary education compulsory and free. Supplies like textbooks and uniforms are also provided, however the dropout rates are still high. Research shows that the average dropout rate for children living below the poverty level is 23.2%. Why? One main factor that children stop coming to school is to help their families work and earn some money. Because of that, they are unable to attend school regularly and miss out on important lessons, causing them to lag behind other students, eventually leading them to drop out. Not forgetting the other factors like family. Most parents have low education levels, low socioeconomic status, and low expectations for educational attainment. This shows that parents may not actively encourage their children to pursue education and graduate from school.

  1. Physical factors 

Physical factors cover a trifecta, physical distance students have to walk to get to school, impact of natural disasters and infrastructure of the school itself. Studies have shown that long distances and time taken to travel to school has a negative effect on education participation and graduation. 

Natural disasters on the other hand have a much larger effect on schooling. In 2010, a monsoon destroyed 11,000 schools in Pakistan. The remaining schools were used as community shelters while repairs to infrastructure and schools were slow and delayed, causing severe disruption to education. The destruction of schools is not the only factor, roads and transport may become inaccessible for travelling, households will have a much tighter budget which leads to cutting down on basics like education and health. Higher absenteeism rates and poor academic performance are also seen after rural areas experience climate shocks due to trauma or sickness (from malnutrition in droughts or diarrhea in floods).

The infrastructures of schools are also another problem, especially those in extreme poverty stricken areas. Classrooms could just be a room filled with benches and a black board. Thin walls unprotected from termites, leaking roofs easily damaged by rain and there is a good chance that the rooms also lack windows and doors. Schools also do not have enough resources like tables or chairs which leads to overcrowding in classrooms. Looking at these images may give you a good idea of the poor conditions the children have to study in. 

  1. Insufficient qualified teachers

Good and qualified teachers in the rural areas tend to move out to urban areas for more career development opportunities and a higher paycheck. This leaves the rural areas with under qualified educators that are unable to impart knowledge on the children in an effective manner. However, schools will still employ unqualified and under qualified teachers due to the severe shortage, but this will result in low quality education and poor academic outcomes. Teachers themselves may also have high absenteeism rates from long travel distances to remote schools amongst other reasons. Substitute teachers will have to step in or classes will merge, leading to overcrowding or an unproductive learning session at school. 

  1. Content and curriculum

Other than an educator’s ability to teach students, the content and curriculum is also vital in ensuring academic success. Many schools have a shortage of learning resources such as textbooks and reading materials like dictionaries, which limits the extent of knowledge a child is able to learn. Classroom lessons also have lesser engagement as there are little practical activities that children can participate in, except for memorization of facts. For us, we have resources such as a chemistry lab to have hands-on lessons or home economics room for application of useful life skills. With the lack of resources, the children will not have an equal opportunity to learn. 

  1. Lack of technology

How does anyone obtain information nowadays? Via the wonderful internet. Anything can be found online due to the modern advances of technology. Technology has vastly improved many education systems around the world. Reports have stated that “access to technology is important for education, not only because there is a plethora of technology-based resources for learning, but also to teach students the basic computer skills that are important for many careers”. These rural areas on the other hand, have limited to no access to the internet or broadband. With access to the internet, it will greatly improve the quality of education by unlocking the doors to unlimited information, knowledge and educational resources. Teachers can also use materials found online for more interactive classes that cover a wide range of learning. Some schools in rural areas do have computers for students to learn with, but it would often be an extremely old pre-loved donated computer with slow connection. There are so little computers that 50 students could be sharing one computer, can you even imagine how chaotic it would be trying to view a tiny screen with 50 other students? 

After identifying the many problems and challenges that the education system in rural areas face, what can we do to start fixing it? 

Solution : CaseStudy 

The Patatas have innovated a digital educational solution that is targeted at rectifying some common problems of the education systems in rural areas. Before we dive into how this cost effective digital solution can positively impact the schools, let us share a bit about ourselves.  

Who is The Patatas 

We are social innovators that use technology and innovation to bring about a positive social change in underrepresented communities. We collaborate with our partners and customise digital solutions catering to the needs of each unique community. Check out our website at https://www.thepatatas.com/#work to see what other projects we have implemented and how we have impacted positive change with our innovations. 

What is the CaseStudy

This compact yellow box called the “CaseStudy”  is a fully customisable cost effective digital solution for schools to give students an equal chance at an education while operating in unfavourable conditions. 

The CaseStudy is a portable waterproof and shockproof housing unit containing digital equipment needed for conducting lessons. In rural areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters like flash floods or earthquakes, the CaseStudy and its electronic contents will be able to withstand external damages from disasters as well as issues faced while transporting and setting up the unit. 

To combat the problem of power supply and lack of internet connectivity, each CaseStudy is fitted with its own built-in battery and powered by a portable power bank. Portable projectors and speakers in the CaseStudy will aid teachers with audio visual and information support during classroom activities, increasing engagement and interest in students. We also created this invention keeping in mind that many of these rural areas do not have access to the internet, thus teachers will be able to work with the CaseStudy 100% offline. 

The content and curriculum of lessons will also be pre-downloaded into an 8gb hard drive within the CaseStudy, providing a wide range of learning information and teaching materials in forms of presentation slides, videos etc. This solves the problem of limited content and poor quality education due to a lack of learning resources. 

As we bring CaseStudy boxes to each community and school, we will ensure that the teachers have been trained to set up the equipment quickly with ease. With the ease in portability, classrooms can be moved to different locations, not just confined within a school anymore. Teachers will also be taught how to access the educational materials located within the hard drive and how to use them in classes effectively. 

Here is a video highlighting the key points of the CaseStudy:

https://www.facebook.com/thepatatas/videos/715231268909975/?v=715231268909975

If there are any underprivileged communities you would like to sponsor or help out with the CaseStudy or any other projects that we have, get in touch with us! We have helped many communities and are always looking for more places to make positive changes. 

Drop us an email at info@thepatatas.com to find out more!

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