In this edition of Learning World, we visited northern Rwanda and southern Brazil to examine an issue facing families around the world: When money is limited and resources are scarce, what routes are available to guarantee that your children have access to a quality, yet affordable, education?
Rwanda: partnerships are essential
The Rwandan government has dramatically increased spending on education over the past decade – and the country has the highest primary school enrollment rate in Africa.
In addition, Rwanda has succeeded in ensuring near universal access to primary education, according to Unicef.
Jean De Dieux Mwumvirangoma is a farmer and father of five children, living in the Burera district in the north of the country.
His son Etienne studies at a nearby government-funded school. About 1,250 students are enrolled there.
Jean said he sent his children to school “to prepare them to manage their lives in the future”.
“I want them to study in school for a better Rwanda.”
The Global Partnership for Education supports educational initiatives in 61 developing countries around the world.
Rwanda joined the GPE in 2006 and has received four scholarships since then. Around 175 million dollars (155 million euros) was paid to Rwanda in total, according to the GPE.
Subrata Dhar, who is the country leader for the GPE in Rwanda, said: “The Rwandan government is extremely committed to the development of the education system. They have developed a strategic plan for the education sector, which is comprehensive and results-oriented.
Last year the GPE adopted a new funding model. The candidate countries are preparing an education plan. If accepted, 70 percent of the grant is paid. The remaining 30 percent is conditional on improvements made in accordance with the plan.
Rwanda was one of the first countries to apply for one of these grants, and it got its last installment of GPE financing in May 2015.
Rwanda’s Minister of Education told Learning World: “The first element, of course, is measuring learning outcomes. The second aspect is to focus on the data, to have quality disaggregated data so that it can inform us.
“The new funding model also focuses on preschool education, because we believe that early preparation of children increases the level of arithmetic and literacy.
“If I get a diploma, I could become a teacher, or mayor, even a journalist, who knows! https://t.co/oyXPZN1vZ8pic.twitter.com/iAb0t2WDaM
– Global partnership (@GPforEducation) March 7, 2016
Teacher training – Rwanda’s next educational challenge
This emphasis on early childhood education includes new initiatives to train more teachers for these crucial early years of schooling.
At the Kirambo training center in Burera, future preschool teachers learn the trade.
Trainee Claudine Nishimwe said the teachers in Kirambo show “how we can best prepare how to teach children in kindergarten. Other courses we study in early childhood education include psychology, math, social studies, French, English, etc.
Brazil: Private student loans skyrocket as government cuts bite
From dawn to dusk
As day dawned in Sao Paolo, it was the start of another long day for 26-year-old Camila.
She worked full time as a legal intern all day, then took evening classes from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
But Camilla wouldn’t change her “grueling routine” as it gives her the opportunity to fulfill her dream of becoming a lawyer.
Her parents have modest incomes, but she was able to secure a private student loan in order to take her law school.
“This loan is a very good thing for her, as she was struggling to get public financial assistance,” said Camila’s mother, Celia.
“The interest (on the private loan) is as low as on the public loans. “
Camila herself admitted that she “couldn’t take these courses without the loan, because of the price”, adding that the loan “makes the (re) repayment much easier and allows me to do it”.
Boom in private loans
Government cuts to education funding in Brazil have prompted more and more students, like Camila, to take out loans from private companies.
Ideal Invest has provided loans to around 50,000 students – more than half of whom are women – since 2006.
Of the society CEO Carlos Furlan said private student loans are absolutely essential to fill the gap in public funding.
“The two loan systems coexist. Because, especially in Brazil, many students need financial support to go to university. Without the public and private systems, it would not be possible for all students who lack the resources to go to university, ”explained Furlan.
Camilla, who has an Ideal Invest loan called Prevailer, said the private system is much less bureaucratic than the public system.
Her professor – law professor Terezinha Fernandes de Oliveira – said she was also in favor of private student loans because they keep students motivated.
“Because for them (the students with private loans) they have to – and they are willing to – be responsible and repay the money for their own courses,” de Oliveira explained.