Monday 18 April 2011

Self-sufficient Schools

TeachAManToFish works to support schools and education programs in developing countries, in Africa, Asia and South-America, to broaden the poor’s access to a high quality education, combining vocational training and entrepreneurship to increase financial self-sufficiency.

Teach A Man To Fish’s “education that pays for itself” model is for schools to set up rural enterprises a) to generate income to provide free education to students between the ages of 14 and 21 from low income families, and b) to teach students valuable and practical entrepreneurial skills that they can use to set up their own businesses in the future.  La Bastilla Agricultural technical school, Nicaragua, runs eight businesses: eggs, dairy products, honey, pig-rearing, fruit and vegetable garden, coffee and reforestation plants, a bakery and an eco-lodge, with the objective that within the five year period till 2014 the school will become 100% financially self-sufficient.  The educational methodology is based on ‘learning-by-doing’ and ‘learning for earning’ whereby the students spend 30% of their time in theoretical classes and the remaining 70% rotating in all the business areas getting practical work experience ranging from caring for animals and planting crops, to record keeping and promoting the eco-lodge at tourism fairs.
Self-Sufficient Schools
At its simplest a Self-Sufficient School is one that generates enough income to cover the costs of providing a quality education to its students.
It's a hands-on approach
Vocational schools have long appreciated the benefits of ‘learning-by-doing’ – no one ever learnt to drive a tractor from reading a book! Skills are often best learnt on-the-job, and improve by practice.
Generating income
Where refining skills is aimed at delivering a product or service of marketable quality – from honey or maize to running a hotel – the natural next step is to actually make and sell this product or service. Schools rarely have difficulties finding a use for income generated in this way!
Scaling up
Although it requires a substantial effort to create a demonstration business environment for teaching purposes, it is often proportionately not much harder to produce and deliver the same product or service on a much larger scale.
In developing countries where commercial enterprises often lack the very skills being taught, scaling up can justifiably result in greater productivity than the market norm.
When each activity across a school’s curriculum is taught in this manner – being effectively run as a profitable business unit – financial self-sufficiency becomes a realistic prospect.
Self-sufficiency is really just a means to an end - to providing a quality vocational education that opens up prospects for graduates to earn a decent living, and create jobs for others.

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