Challenging geographies

Most countries have geographic areas that are challenging. In some countries these areas are more numerous or vast than in others. The more economically developed a country, the better able to adapt to or overcome the challenges of its geographies it may be.

Challenging geographies

What are challenging geographies?

There are many kinds of geographical environments that may be viewed as challenging including both physical and human geographies. Challenging physical geographies may include mountainous areas and steep hillsides, deltas and river basins, volcanic and tectonic zones, deserts and islands, among others. They also include areas that are prone to extreme climatic and meteorological events such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, and tornados. There are aspects of human geography that may be challenging, such as high population density and growth rates, as well as cultural, linguistic, religious, and political pluralities.

Very often, a country’s main administrative city(s) or region is established in an area that with less challenging geographies. The further one moves from the main administrative region the more challenging geographies may become. Many areas with geographies that create challenges, are remote and hard to reach from the main administrative region, and are home to a minority group that have maintained distinct cultural practices, including retaining a separate language and traditional lifestyles--including nomadic lifestyles.

How pervasive is it?

Most countries have geographic areas that are challenging.  In some countries these areas are more numerous or vast than in others. The more economically developed a country, the better able to adapt to or overcome the challenges of its geographies it may be. The Netherlands, for example, is about 27 percent below sea level, yet this area is home to over 60 percent of the country's population of 16 million and flooding is rare.  Whereas half of Bangladesh is at an elevation near to sea level and vast tracts are susceptible to regular flooding both by the Ganges and by typhoons.

How are geographies a barrier to enrollment and participation?

This table provides illustrative examples of the challenges geographies may present and some potential strategies that have been designed to address them.

Challenge of geography How a barrier to access Potential strategies to address OOSC
Mountainous Children who live in mountainous areas often encounter long distances and steep inclines from their homes to the nearest school, and more often than not they do not have access to public transportation. Establish small multi-grade community managed schools for remote villages.
Deltaic Children live in flood-prone river deltas in small semi-permanent communities. Establish floating schools that can double as a “school bus” to collect and drop off students and provide a place for instruction and learning to take place.
Demographic Public schools are overcrowded due to high birth rates and migration. Establish NGO or low cost private schools to complement government run schools.
Cultural Community’s principle language is different than the official language of instruction. Create dialogue on language policy and pilot alternatives to demonstrate effectiveness of mother tongue instruction.

Examples of EAC partners who are addressing challenging geographies

Constructing primary schools in remote areas where there were none. The NGO imagine1day International is constructing schools to provide access to primary education for about 30,000 OOSC in the Bale Zone of Ethiopia’s southern Oromiya region, increasing net enrollment in the Dello Mena and Meda Welabu districts from 52% to 87% through improved access to primary schools. The initiative will decrease the average distance to schools in the two districts from 7km to 3km.

Enabling instruction in mother tongue. The Karen Teacher Working Group in association with Save the Children Thailand is producing instructional materials in the Sgaw Karen language for non-government schools, and improving teaching skills of primary school teachers in their mother tongue for Karen and other ethnic nationality schools in Myanmar’s Border States through mobile teacher training teams.