Performance – Over three years, the Initiative continuously met its goals of enrolling more children into Speed Schools and transferring them into formal schools in the three countries. Of the three countries, Mali recorded the highest success rate due to its experience in running the schools since 2005, while Niger and Burkina Faso had only run them for two and three years, respectively.
Community-based and community-led – Speed Schools were established only in communities that showed their commitment by providing the facility and selecting the person to be trained as a Speed School teacher. The SFWA approach of working with communities to supervise the implementation of Speed Schools enabled the programme to reach tens of thousands of children, while allowing SFWA to concentrate on developing quality education and training materials. This approach also enabled SFWA to deliver a standardised curriculum that has been used by all of their partners.
Government support – SFWA sought and obtained government support in all three countries. This facilitated the transfer of children into formal schools and addressed initial challenges such as the lack of birth certificates by some of the children in Mali. However, this issue still remains a challenge in Burkina Faso and the teams are working to address it by sensitising parents and encouraging them to apply for birth certificates before children are due for transfer into the formal schools.
Female enrolment rates in Niger – The Niger Speed School programme did not enrol enough female children. Sensitising communities on the importance of education, particularly for female children, has been an obstacle to the success of the programmes in several communities.
Attendance – Once enrolled in Speed School, regular attendance seems to drop, leading to less than 80 percent transfer rate of the originally enrolled children into formal schools. Parents often keep their children at home to tend to domestic chores and help in farming when needed.
Migration – The migration of families in search of farm work at the beginning of the rainy season (June) also contributes to the lower number of children sitting for final exams and, consequently, transferring to formal school. To address this issue, the exams are now conducted in early June, before the rains begin, to give children an opportunity to qualify for transfer into formal schools.
Poverty – The poverty level of some of the parents affects their ability to cover costs related to their children’s education in formal schools. The self-help women savings groups established in most communities with a Speed School are designed to ease this burden by providing the mothers with a source of funding to cover these costs.
Measuring long-term impact – The Initiative fails to continuously track the successful completion of basic education in the formal schools by the Speed School graduates. This poses a challenge in measuring the success of Speed Schools beyond its ten-month implementation period.