CARE Rwanda has been integrating new lessons into certain primary schools in rural areas of the country. The always innovative organization has partnered with 27 schools to add new modules into their curriculum that educate pupils on concepts of sustainable farming through the Farmers of the Future Initiative. Schools were given the equipment and assistance to start a garden. The pupils, along with teachers and staff, were responsible for maintaining it. Once their garden was fully operational, they were required to then assist another school in the same endeavor, thus passing knowledge and capabilities along to another community. CARE helped integrate an agricultural program into each school’s curriculum, covering topics such as crop-rotation, agroforestry, mulching and composting, and organic farming. Students were expected to transfer these lessons to their own familial farms. This innovative project has been well received in the community with other farmers replicating the practices in their own lands.
The significant innovation of this project is that it makes schooling relevant for rural children. Many of these students will inevitably inherit and continue to depend upon their family land. Why not teach them the principles and techniques necessary to maximize their efforts? Adding agricultural modules may also encourage parents to ensure that they children attend school. Some families withhold their child’s participation in school because they feel they are more needed at home. Here is an added incentive to convince parents of the importance of keeping their children enrolled full-time. Another obvious benefit is the new generation of farmers/agronomists that this project is producing. By ingraining these sustainable and important practices in young farmers, CARE is making a significant contribution to the food security of the entire community.
Why stop at agriculture? There are a number of other relevant topics that could be integrated into curriculum. Lessons on biology could contain sections on proper hygiene, mathematics can be adapted to address basic accounting or bookkeeping. With the right mix of topics, there is a great potential to make school more relevant to the lives of certain communities.
Some may fear that by investing too much learning time in practical subjects, one may jeopardize the importance of other, more theoretical subjects. The aspiration of attending school for many families is that their children become equipped with knowledge that allows them to “escape” their community or improve their economic outcomes. This often means learning computer literacy or English so that they can move to economic centers, where employment opportunities are more lucrative.
With the growing list of problems evolving through the mass urbanization that we have seen over the last half century, perhaps it is time to return our focus on rural communities. The mass migration away from rural heartlands has led to a mixed bag of experiences for different nations. Context is everything and that’s why each region, each community needs to asses whether or not integrating relevant learning modules is right for their children.