Distance Education and the Well-Being of the Rural Poor: Case Study of the Kabongo Region in Democratic Republic of Congo

Article excerpt

As a result of war and the economic situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the people of the country are suffering extreme poverty. The population of Kabongo depends on agricultural output and the generated income, primarily from the production of cassava. At present, cassava is suffering from diseases and the consequence is a decrease in production. The decreased production leads to less food, and therefore even higher rates of malnutrition. Also, there are fewer products to sell, resulting in less money, more children with no access to school, a higher rate of school dropout, a lack of clothing, a lack of access to medicines and a higher rate of street kids stealing or begging. As a result of the problems leading to decreased production of cassava, the rural people in the Kabongo region are seeking a solution to the problem. By solving the problem of the diseases affecting cassava there will be increased production of cassava and an increase in farmers' incomes.

To solve this problem, we suggest a functional education program for the rural people on cassava. The objective is to develop a teaching and learning curriculum designed specifically to meet the needs of rural people; this curriculum will be focused on adult learners who are illiterate, as well as not able to speak the official language, French, or even the four national languages. The people of Kabongo will frequently only speak the local dialect. These people are geographically scattered and isolated in the local area. To solve the problem of the scattered nature of the target audience, where there is an absence of electricity, telecommunication (and in short all new technologies are lacking), we have chosen to produce a distance education program using radio broadcast. To enable learners to provide feedback and reduce the need for direct contact between the rural adult learners, our plan is to use "radio broadcasting reception centers." These centers will be staffed by trained people, who are qualified teachers, and at the end of training they will be posted to the reception centers. These facilitators will assist adult learners, answer their questions, explain complex aspects of information broadcasted, organize workshops and practical activities, as well as provide "counseling" services.

In the case of this rural distance education by radio, linear design will be predominantly used; in some cases in which the learner or learning activities need another rhythm of learning, the linear design will be combined with other instructional designs to achieve the objective.

This curriculum will be the first in the domain of rural, illiterate, adult learners. Also, it will be the first time a curriculum has been designed to meet the specific needs of the rural people in the Kabongo region.

INTRODUCTION

Kabongo is located in the province of Katanga in Democratic Republic of Congo. TWs region is characterized by various daily problems. Transportation in this region is a major issue, and reaching nearby major cities is problematic. The principal means of transportation to Kamina, a city only 200 kilometers away, are truck, train, and bicycles. During rainy season, this 200-kilometer trip can take up to two days by truck or slow train. This area also does not have electricity, running water, television, radio broadcasting, and Internet; essentially, there is a total absence of all new technologies.

In the Kabongo region, the vast majority of people are farmers, and they live off their agricultural produce. From the sale of their produce they gain money and participate in the standard economic cycle; therefore, they are able to buy clothes, medicines, send children to school, and try to fight against premature school dropout, along with being able to deal with the normal daily problems.

This corner of Congo is facing a very high level of poverty. The poverty was intensified by the consequences of 5 years of war, and recently diseases present in cassava plants. …