What is education infrastructure?
Education infrastructure includes, suitable spaces to learn. This is one of the most basic elements necessary to ensure access to education. School classrooms are the most common place in which structured learning takes place with groups of children. While learning also takes place in a variety of different types of spaces - tents, temporary shelters, plastic sheeting, shade of trees, places of worship, people’s homes, and so on—families and communities expect formal education to take place in classrooms that have been designed for safety and comfort.
Some of the attributes of adequate infrastructure are:
- Sufficient space per child, usually guided by standards set by a country’s Ministry of Education
- Sufficient space for 30-40 children per classroom, to permit efficient use of teachers
- Construction methods that ensure the safety of children in school, suited to natural hazards of the region
- Adequate separate sanitary facilities for boys and girls and for staff
- Increasingly, electricity and Internet connectivity.
How does inadequate infrastructure act as a barrier to enrollment and participation?
Facilities may be inadequate in many ways, including being over-crowded ordangerous, lacking in adequate sanitary facilities and lacking water for hygiene. The health implications of inadequate toilets and sanitation are very serious. Girls in particular are pushed out of school if facilities are inadequate. Older primary-age girls are will miss significant amounts of school or are unlikely to continue at school after they begin menstruation if sanitary facilities are poor or non-existent. Additionally, children may be turned away from school when its official enrollment capacity is reached.
How pervasive are infrastructural issues?
Inadequacy of learning space and associated facilities is a pervasive factor for out of school children in rural and densely populated urban settings, particularly where internal migration is high, in remote rural areas, and for girls entering who have started menstruating.
The world’s poorest countries need almost four million new classrooms by 2015, largely in rural and marginalized areas, to accommodate those who are not in school. More classrooms will alleviate overcrowding, cut class sizes and reduce long travel distances. Dilapidated classrooms also need refurbishing or upgrading to acceptable minimum standards for learning.
Children in rural areas sometimes walk 2 to 3 hours to attend school because there are no school buildings near where they live (Explore Challenging Geographies for more on this).
Examples of EAC partners addressing the shortage of infrastructure
EAC partners address the lack of adequate infrastructure in various ways:
- Rehabilitating schools that are in disrepair
- Expanding learning space in overcrowded schools
- Improving sanitary facilities, particularly for girls
Over half of EAC partners address the barrier of infrastructure in various ways that are appropriate to the local context. Here is an example for each of the above strategies.
Rehabilitating schools in disrepair. The Gonoshahajjo Sangstha (GSS) system in Bangladesh is repairing and re-launching 575 unused schools to provide primary education for over 100,000 out of school children.
Expanding learning space in overcrowded schools. UNICEF, Chad will reduce class size in overcrowded classrooms by building additional classrooms in existing schools.
Improving sanitary facilities particularly for girls. UNICEF Sudan is targeting 240,000 out of school children and one focus is on girls’ enrollment. Those girls ages 6-9 are encouraged to go to school, while those over age 9 are given a catch-up program and then encouraged to join the primary school cycle at the appropriate level. To ensure that one of the barriers for girls is addressed, UNICEF is rehabilitating the water, sanitation and hygiene facilities of targeted schools.
- UNICEF. School Design and Construction. A web-based compendium of resource materials.
- UNICEF, 2013. WASH in Schools Empowers Girls’ Education: Proceedings of the Menstrual Hygiene Management in Schools Virtual Conference 2012.