There is little data around on the effectiveness of school sponsorship, so the above is just to perhaps create a talking point.
I start from the position that there are three main purposes in sponsoring children:
a) We want to give them a chance to break out of their disadvantaged circumstances
b) We want those we sponsor to contribute positively to the economy of the country they live
c) We want those we sponsor to create change in the country they live, by improving the living standards of those in their communities
But where is the science in this?
One of the boys we support at the Chrysalis Centre is not sponsored and so he spends a lot of time with us, as the school where he tries to study throws the kids out, if they don’t pay their school fees, like most schools. His brother, who is much older, has now finished school and graduated from Senior 6. He’s unemployed, violent and often beats his little brother (who is 11), simply because he comes to our Centre for safety. To me, the money spent on his older brother’s sponsorship was wasted. I don’t know his academic ability or potential, but his attitude is clearly wrong. One could guess as to the reasons for his antisocial behaviour, but one reason might be his disadvantaged family circumstances, but that may have been the reason he was chosen? And beating in his school has had the reverse effect – not creating a discipline in him, but instead a desire to beat others. The younger boy is kind and helpful and respected by his peers. He is only in Year 2 of his education, as he never graduates and I feel now that I have to step up to the plate to sponsor him, as no others are.
I look around too at those kids locally who are sponsored and those that are not. Clearly the decision in our area is based less on potential, rather than other reasons. Let us presume that the prime reason is to do with family status – is the child orphaned, are the parents unemployed, does the child have a home, is the child at risk? These are good reasons, but are they the right reasons for the country in which the sponsorship is taking place? Is the child selfless? – this is not a criterion.
When growing up a child needs a supportive family, with ethics and morals. This is pretty obvious, but when utilising the above criteria are we making it difficult for ourselves to choose a child that is most likely to develop into a good citizen? We know some disadvantaged children can become stars of sport, business, music, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
So, how do families find sponsorship for their children? Are we finding the “aid seekers”, as opposed to the “self-starters”, because they are the ones most likely to push themselves forward? Are we often finding those families less adept, because they are unemployed and thus have more time to persuade sponsors? Research also shows that the most intelligent people are more selfless, as they see the bigger picture and realise that others are less able to solve problems than they and thus may not be the ones at the front of the sponsorship queue and, yes, we have anecdotal evidence of this.
Also, when we choose the schools, are we demanding enough from them to receive the sponsorship? Face the facts – the money for school fees does not often go to the families and in the vast majority of cases does not improve their living standards, at least where we are. Should we not expect a more empowering influence by teachers to pupils, when for now subjugation tends to be the rule? Should we not question the need for flouting the law, which states that caning is schools is allowed for only serious misbehaviour? Should we not scrutinise schools, to ensure there is a plan for improvement in school provision, as part of that sponsorship, at least when substantial numbers of pupils are sponsored?
So, I am advocating a more proactive approach, where sponsorship is earned, not given, both from schools and from pupils and their families. I would not want a child sponsored to be beaten, either at home or at school. I would insist that they are learning how to use a computer. I would require ethics and other moral standards to be upheld in schools and not have them exposed to corruption and poor role models amongst the teachers.
One of the girls who is a young changemaker who frequents the Chrysalis Centre is at a good school a few miles away from where we are based. However, one of the teachers is sadistic and insists on caning for the slightest provocation. As a first year student, she plucked up the courage to see the headmaster, saying that the teacher was breaking the law almost every day. His response was that “we need a few teachers like that to keep the pupils in check”. A few calls from sponsors and the attitude of that head teacher would be different.
Lastly, do you want your sponsored child learning amongst children who are unethical and part of a backward-looking, disillusioned corruption-based culture?
At the Chrysalis School, of course, we take a very different approach. Every student is specially chosen from remote rural areas. They are tested for ability, but also for their desire to be a changemaker. At school, teachers do not cane and have found alternative punishments (as many schools have). Ethics and ICT form part of the student learning. Pupils do not learn by rote in every class and teachers are tasked with empowering pupils through discussion and use of external material. Pupils are not punished for insubordination, but for selfishness and, before you ask, our school is not expensive to run.
Strangely, we have only a few visionary sponsors for our children and so we feel the need to publicise what we believe is a more sophisticated, though grassroots approach, as our children are to be the changemakers of the future!