ABC’s first and core program, entitled “Access to Education,” provides children with a host of supplies and services to attend school and support them on their academic journey. Enhancing this program is “Penfriends,” which pairs Canadian and Burkinabè students together to exchange information and stories about their lives. In 2010, ABC added a third program, a “Summer Camp” for sponsored students to allow them to strengthen social ties and pursue light-hearted games and activities in an educational context. Finally, in 2011 we opened a library to support a “Learning after School” program, which initially consisted of supplying additional textbooks and other reading materials to sponsored students. In 2014 ABC decided to expand the program by employing a pedagogical professional to provide tutoring, mentorship, and guidance.
ACCESS TO EDUCATION
Our core “Access to Education” program aims to improve the lives of orphans and vulnerable children by creating educational opportunities in Burkina Faso.
ABC currently sponsors students in both elementary and high schools, and strives to achieve gender parity among sponsored students. The program takes a holistic approach to education, understanding that merely paying for children’s school fees is often insufficient to ensure their academic success. As well as paying for tuition, ABC purchases uniforms for the high school students it sponsors and two sets of clothes for the elementary school students. Importantly, ABC provides a quality lunchtime meal to all the sponsored students. Children also receive a school bag and a full set of school supplies including workbooks, textbooks, mathematical instruments, binders, pens, pencils, and a sharpener and eraser. The students’ academic performance is monitored through assessment forms their teachers submit every trimester. Additionally the field coordinator meets with teachers and principles every trimester to get a first-hand account of their progress. Finally, the field coordinator regularly meets with the students and their guardians. All assessments and meetings are evaluated by the ABC Board of Governors in Canada. The welfare and academic progress of our students is additionally safeguarded through the supply of preventative healthcare measures and products and sanitary supplies. ABC also acts when the child or their family has a specific need, such as purchasing reading glasses.
ABC sponsors orphans and vulnerable children in the province of Sissili who are in financial need. To this end we work with Burkina Faso’s youth protection agency, called the Action Sociale, to identify the most needy in the community. ABC’s field coordinator collects information on potential students and interviews them as well as their family. Additional information is collected through ABC’s Burkinabè Board of Governors, who have strong community networks. Finally, the Canadian Board of Governors scrutinizes the information and selects new students, assessing among other factors those who have enough potential and drive to benefit from the schooling opportunity. ABC strives to develop a long-term relationship with each child and therefore seeks to support children who are likely to remain in school for a number of years. For these reasons, the following criteria are among those used to select our candidates: family situation, household resources, guardian support, intellectual potential and motivation, history of school attendance and performance.
The Penfriends program consists of letter exchanges between Canadian and Burkinabè students. Classes from Canadian (Montreal-based) elementary or high schools are paired with those at the same grade level in Léo, Burkina Faso.
The themes of the exchange program are designed to encourage Canadian and Burkinabè students to discover their own home and region, and to promote an understanding of what life can be like for young people on a distant continent. Youths participating in the program learn important skills associated with writing and communication. Besides letters, we encourage the children’s creativity by promoting the exchange of drawings and/or photos.
Every year Association Burkina Canada organizes a summer camp for the students we sponsor. In 2012 we started teaming up with Fédération NUNUNA, a local community-based organization, and now the camp has over a hundred participants who enjoy three days of fun. Children of all ages mix together and participate in a range of activities including sports, crafts, and educational-based theatre.
Association Burkina Canada operates a library located in the central town of Léo. The library was opened primarily to provide students textual resources to aid their learning and a safe and pleasing place to do work. With the success of the library ABC has expanded the range of books we keep as well as increased the role of the librarian. The librarian not only manages the library’s holdings, but also acts pedagogically as well, providing tutoring and guidance to students.