International Day of Education 2023
For the DelAgua team, today’s UN International Day of Education is one that we are always excited to celebrate because of the impact the provision of an improved cookstove has to a family on their children’s education. It is also an opportunity for us to highlight the vital contribution clean cooking makes to progress on SDG 4, Quality Education.
The theme for today is “To invest in people, prioritise education”. The UN observes that education offers children a ladder out of poverty and a path to a promising future. But about 244 million children and adolescents around the world are out of school and less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school. Without inclusive and equitable quality education countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind. The UN Youth summit summed it up well: “If we are to survive and thrive in planetary peace and righteous equality, then education is our primary source of hope and resolution.”
For the rural communities we serve, gathering wood for the traditional 3 stone fire and cooking duties can occupy as much as 5 hours a day and it is often the job of the children to collect the firewood. This means they miss out on school and girls in particular suffer as they bear the burden of domestic duties. The WHO reports that time spent gathering wood, tending the fire and protecting younger siblings from the fire all reduce girls’ own time to study and increases their risk of dropping out of school altogether. Missing school has serious long -term consequences for the child, for the family, for the community and for the country. The drudgery of fuelling the fire is also exhausting, and when this is combined with children receiving just one cooked a meal a day, even when children are able attend school they are too tired and too hungry to concentrate.
The DelAgua stove uses 71% less wood and cooks rapidly and efficiently, cutting cooking times by at least 50%. The time saving for families is substantial and immediate. It is much quicker and easier to prepare meals so children can go to school having had porridge for breakfast and a cooked meal later in the day. Because the stove uses so much less wood, for those families that purchase their wood fuel there is also an immediate financial saving. This money can be used to buy children the books and materials they need for school.
Last year DelAgua commissioned independent research to better understand what women think and feel about their new stove and the difference it has made to their lives. The negative impact of dirty cooking on their children’s education was a consistent theme:
“Sometimes we tell our children to skip school so that they can go and bring firewood which makes them deteriorate in their academics. Children would go climbing trees and end up falling from trees and could break their arms or legs in the name of wood gathering. But now they concentrate on their books and even participate in class because they had the time to revise their books” – Thacienne
“There are some children sleep early from the day’s fatigue and then it so happens that you have not yet given them dinner because you are still struggling in the kitchen. With this stove the food gets ready on time, the children eat on time and sleep on time as well to be able to get up early for school” – Christine
“They no longer go roaming around in the name of wood gathering; they stay home and wash dishes, sweep the compound then concentrate on doing their school revision” – Devotha
Our team of more than 5,000 Community Health Workers see daily the stoves’ impact on education in the villages they serve. These are some of their recent reports:
Tagimungu is a 72 year-old retired teacher who lives with his wife and three children. Tagimungu spends his free time giving extra lessons to the children in the village. He said that everyone in the village seems very happy with the DelAgua stoves, and they worry much less about collecting enough fuel. He has also noticed that the children he teaches have much more time as they spend less time collecting fuel.
Esberance is a 51 year old mother. Before receiving the stove, one of Esberance’s children didn’t go to school because the family didn’t have enough money to pay for school meals but the money saved on fuel means that her child will now be able to go to school and have lunch.
Agnes and her family of 9 have been living in a village in the mountains for 10 years after moving away from a previous village due to a high risk of landslides and floods. Agnes and her family have saved money on firewood, which they are now using to buy basic needs such as salt and food, to save for retirement, and also buying more school supplies for her children who are currently at school.
Our Tubeho Neza project has so far provided over 1.2 million stoves to rural Rwandan families and is on track to provide 2.3 million stoves by 2024. We are proud of our decade -long partnership with the Government of Rwanda which lies at the heart of our success and we are also proud that today as measured by the UN Common Country Analysis, Rwanda is among the top performing countries in sub-Saharan Africa in terms of access to education. The country has nearly reached universal primary education with a net enrolment rate of 98.5 % and our stoves are helping ensure children can benefit fully from the education available to them.