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Innovations, lessons learned and good practices

Burundi 'Community Dialogue: Mobilizing communities to bring hard-to-reach children to schools' (Innovation)

Year: 2009-2011
Major Area: Basic Education and Gender Equality
Sub Area: Communication for Development (C4D)
Language: English

Burundi is emerging from a prolonged period of civil conflict that left most material and financial resources as well as basic social services including education in disarray. Furthermore the prolonged conflict left many children orphaned and vulnerable while sustaining ethnic tensions, distrust and rancor amongst the population. Despite the government’s initiative for free primary education since 2005, an estimated 137,000 children of primary school age (7-12) were out of school in 2008/2009 (Ministry of Education). In 2009, UNICEF advocacy with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education led to the adoption of 'Community Dialogue' to engage all stakeholders in identifying issues and suggesting solutions to improve school access and retention. Although this approach has been used widely in different contexts, for Burundi the challenge was to be able to mobilize community leaders within a post conflict context that was full of suspicion and tensions. The participants in the 'Community Dialogue', identified problems affecting access to schools in their community, drafted an action plan, and implemented it during the following three months just before the beginning of the new school year.

The initiative was evaluated positively by local administration and education decision makers in terms of identifying out-of-school children and supporting them to go (back) to school. In addition, available education data shows that four months after the Dialogue, the number of out-of-school children was reduced and the drop-out rate went down in eight out of the nine participating communities.  This document focuses on the strategies of the 'Community Dialogue' and its contribution to the key education indicators at local level, and discusses challenges and way forwards.

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