As we go about achieving the goal of producing lasting impact in rural communities by improving access to education, we have come to realize a few unexpected (initially) changes that a school brings. This usually hits home for most donors who come over during our annual donor trips when they see these effects first hand.
One of the effects of building a school in a newly settled community is that it becomes the focus for development in the community. This means that the community centre develops near the school in most of the communities we have worked with. Before we start building a school in an area you’ll find that the land left aside for community activities like trading centre and markets is used and thus bare. However as soon as the school starts and grows into a community institution, the people around the area set up businesses and hang outs in the land allocated for that which is usually near the school. A great example of this effect is in Lemolo B community where a thriving trade centre has been set up with various businesses running and serving the people there. It starts with a little shop for common household items and soon other necessary services and goods business follow promptly. In Lemolo B, the government in its efforts to connect the schools to the national grid brought the electricity right in the community. Once this was done the power company working with government saw it wise to distribute the power to all the residents and thus every household was recently connected to the electric grid. Thus even though the community is far and away from other places, they are now on the grid and living vastly better lives with very cheap connection and no hustle on their part. What would have costed a lot to do privately or communally was very inexpensive just costing the residents $10 instead of more than $700 for each connection. This has been a catalyst to business growth in the area as they can establish businesses that run on electric power instead of travelling more than 7 miles to the nearest town.
Even in other areas with electric connection bringing about business growth. Community starts setting up businesses around the school. It starts as a way to sell food and other item to construction workers and quickly grows into businesses that serve the whole community as the people start seeing a new venture to earn a little more money in addition to farming and other economic activities. When teachers settle in to the new school similar needs met and thus keep demand.
Another effect I commonly observe after building a school is the community utilizing the organization and leadership established during the school building to solve problems in the community. In Baraka Shalom, the community water project was stalled and even though local politicians promised to help this didn’t materialize. The community having realized they can work together by adding small contributions were able to revive the water projects and now there is clean water available in the community. Other organization also see this level of community organization, problem solving and initiative and they want to work this these communities. In the whole Lemolo area a few organizations have done projects since we build the schools there.
Therefore we don’t just build a school, we establish the focal point and structure for other developments to thrive and take shape.