Back in April, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) announced a significant amount of new funding to Benin, Burundi, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and Uzbekistan in order to help strengthen their educational systems. In Burundi, the funds will specifically go towards building new primary schools. I wonder the extent to which this helps? Could funding be used to better addressed the current education problems: It is easy to build schools in Burundi - most of the time the schools are built poorly with bad-quality bricks. In this case, could the money be spent on putting windows in existing schools or building walls/fences around existing schools to strengthen failing infrastructure? Several of the students I interviewed stated that the number one thing they would change about their school would be to put a proper fence around it. Why? Because the schools were often attached to the roads - often this meant that community members would walk across school grounds throughout the day and disrupt lessons. Students also talked about the fact that it would be nice to have window panes in their classrooms, when it rains (and it rains a lot), students would have to move away from their desks. Maybe in electrifying schools that have no power? Or in financing computers to those schools? At the moment there are course in Information Technology at the secondary level, yet the schools have no electricity, so they cannot learn on a computer. Many of the students I interviewed discussed one of the major drawbacks in their schooling was the lack of ICT infrastructure: they knew that in order to participate in this modern economy, and succeed, they would have to use computers, but many had never seen one. These things matter to providing quality education, just as much as building schools. Further, if more primary schools are put into places without adequate teacher training, then this will all be for naught.
Quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive, and it is important to build schools so that every child can go to school (although, Burundi's current enrollment rate at the primary level is 99%). Strengthening the existing infrastructure might help pave the way for a stronger, more resilient education system. Although, it is cheaper to build schools, so I guess you get more for your money this way. Which is good for satisfying donors.