Education is a privilege and not a basic right in many parts of the world, where school facilities may be inadequate or even non-existent in some regions. As a result, in countries outside of Europe, SOS Children's Villages often needs to build schools which are open to both the children and young people from the children's village as well as to those in neighbouring districts.
|SOS Builds Schools where facilities don't exist, or are inadequate for the needs of the local children|
| Photo: Ms. C. Mathisse|
In Europe and wherever possible, children and young people from the SOS Children's Villages attend local schools and make use of the existing education and training facilities. However, in other regions where there are SOS Children's Villages, the education system is often inadequate due to lack of available state assistance and financial funds.
The social situation for large sectors of the population makes it impossible for many families to afford school fees. Moreover, existing schools frequently have overcrowded classes with 50 and 70 pupils, making them unable to cope with any additional children from the SOS Children's Village.
By building SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools, SOS Children's Villages not only provides for the educational needs of the children and young people from the children's villages, but also improves educational opportunities locally, particularly for children from the surrounding districts, and takes the strain off existing schools.
|A group of youngsters posing for a photo|
| Photo: Mr. R. Ferriras|
The spectrum of SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools ranges from primary and secondary schools, to vocational training schools and international colleges, of which there are two worldwide. However, the objective of SOS Children's Villages' commitment in the educational sector is not to create academic and elitist institutions. The focus of our educational activity is to ensure that adequate schooling is provided to each child who grows up in an SOS Children's Village, and to as many local children as possible.
Primary and secondary schools, which offer classes from the first to the ninth grade, are the most frequent school types amongst the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools. In addition to these, there are also agricultural colleges, technical courses and vocational training programs, special needs schools, and even nursing schools.
All SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools - often regarded as model schools in the country of their location - are state recognized and teach according to the applicable national curricula. Cultural features are always taken into account. A maximum of 30 to 40 pupils per classroom are taught by well-qualified teachers, who are almost always employed from the local community.
The school buildings, frequently arranged in compact smaller units and characterized by elements of regional architecture, are solid constructions that will provide suitable facilities for as many generations of school children as possible.
|SOS Schools are designed to last - providing as many generations of students as possible with a reliable school facility|
| Photo: Mr A. Gabriel|
The two international colleges in Tema, Ghana, and Santa Ana, Costa Rica, play a special role amongst the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools. These colleges are boarding schools and provide education to gifted young people from a variety of African and Latin American SOS Children's Villages, as well as to other young people from Ghana and Costa Rica respectively. These senior schools lead to the international baccalaureate, a qualification which meets the entrance requirements to studies at almost every university in the world.
Grooming students for university entry is not the only goal of the five-year course, however. The colleges also seek to focus students' attention on the development of Africa and Latin America in order to instil a sense of social responsibility and commitment to the continents in line with the motto "Knowledge in the service of my country".
Additionally, students at the colleges are expected to participate in community outreach activities, including literacy programs for the local population, helping in homes for people with special needs, or participating in water supply construction projects in the local communities. It was in recognition of these community programs that the college in Tema was awarded the 1996 Robert Blackburn Award.