N’DJAMENA, October 15, 2010 –Some 500 kilometers south of N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, the villages of Bayaka and Gougou Doubang prepare for the first time to experience a worry-free school year during the rainy season that would usually cut them off from the rest of the country.
The prospect had been so daunting that both villages joined forces to carry out improvement works on the school's courtyard, while meetings were held between the school management committee and parents to ensure the effective resumption of classes in October. A return to school this time of the year had for a long time remained a pipe dream for the two villages. But this painful reality will soon become a thing of the past, thanks to the construction of school buildings made possible with funding from the International Development Association (IDA), the branch of the World Bank Group that provides assistance to low-income countries like Chad. The funds are provided under the Local Development Support Project (PROADEL following its French acronym), which is jointly paid for by IDA and the Chadian Government.
Funding for PROADEL was approved in 2004 in the form of a US$23 million IDA grant. The project objective is to help the Chadian Government design and implement a mechanism that allows local communities to manage their own development funds so as to improve access to basic services and stimulate economic activity at the local level in a decentralized and participatory context.
It Takes Two Villages
Each village now has a large, new building housing three classrooms equipped with furniture and supplies. The people of Bayaka and Gougou Doubang can now hope for a better future for their children.
“Money we received from the World Bank helped us complete this school building in a matter of months. It could have taken us 10 years without it,”says a delighted André Wawaré, president of the Community Development Assembly of Bayaka. He recalls the difficulties his community faced to raise some three million CFA francs (US$6,000), representing a 10-percent contribution required for the project. “Each family had to contribute under difficult circumstances because of our poverty, but today, we have no regrets,” he says.
Bayaka and Gougou Doubang have come a long way. “Before the construction of this building, the academic year did not begin for us until around December or January,” recalls bitterly Nathan Sainbé, the spokesman of the village assembly. “Each year we had to call on parents to build sheds and temporary facilities, and the school year lasted until April at the latest, with the arrival of the first rainfall.”
André Wawaré noted that there was a time when no more than 10 local children were enrolled because schools were far away. Today, there are 270 students on the Gougou Doubang school register, of which 140 are girls. In the twin community of Bayaka, there has also been a marked increase, from 60 to 180 students.
The extraordinary efforts of the two villages will be rewarded. For the first time, this year the government has assigned teachers to their schools; their salaries will be covered by the Chad Education Sector Reform Project, which was initially approved in 2003. The announcement comes as a relief for these communities which until now had to scramble to hire teachers locally at parents’ expense.
There are obvious improvements in the hundred or so villages where PROADEL is operational. In all, 35,500 children will enjoy an uninterrupted school year, a direct result of 100 schools built in 100 villages spread over five regions in southern Chad.
“The World Bank's involvement in Chad will increasingly target the sectors that have a direct impact on the lives of the beneficiary populations,” says to Kathryn Hollifield, the acting World Bank Country Director for Chad. “We are pleased to see that these investments are producing concrete results on the ground.”
From drilling wells in health centers to building water towers, latrines, and community radio stations, the project is striving to alter the appearance of villages that are often neglected because of their isolation.
These efforts are not lost to ordinary Chadians. “I contributed money from my own pocket to support the project because I know that it is for the good of our people,” says Pircolossou, an elderly man who served as chief of the Bayaka canton for 50 years before he was elected to parliament 16 years ago.
The Human Face of Progress
In its first phase, which just ended, PROADEL provided seed money for micro-projects that helped solve many of the problems faced by rural communities.
To date, 329 subprojects related to schools, health and HIV/AIDS counseling centers, infrastructure for safe drinking water, storage warehouses, training centers, and community radio stations have been completed out of a total of 405 subprojects planned.
Together they have helped deliver safe drinking water to 257,000 people, and expand access to basic community-based health care services to around 65,000 people through the construction and equipping of health centers. In agriculture, over 100,000 heads of cattle have gained access to water points. With respect to capacity building in local community planning using participatory approaches, more than 5,000 decentralized groups were created and 174 local development plans were prepared and adopted. A total of 210 cantonal committees have been established, paving the way for community participation in the decision-making process and the management of public goods in their respective villages.
“Significant progress has been achieved on the ground despite difficulties associated with institutional arrangements,”according toSoulemane Fofana, the World Bank project leader. He is confident that these results will pave the way for the second phase of PROADEL, which is currently in preparation.