Over the last few months we have been splitting our efforts between fund raising in the UK and delivering programmes in Greece. It is proving to be a very hard slog fund raising, as there are just so many needy causes competing for people’s generosity.
We had a strange experience in Greece a few weeks ago which has made us start reflecting on some quite radical ideas for fund raising. We were delivering programmes to children in a camp and, as usual, there were a large number of local volunteers visiting the camp to help out. We were approached by one couple who asked us if we would consider enrolling their son in the programmes which we were running in the camp. As the couple were locals who lived just a mile from the camp, we asked why the boy wasn’t attending a local school. They said that he was indeed already attending a local school but they were asking if they could transfer him from the local school and instead enrol him in the make-shift circumstances in which we were teaching at the camp.
When we understood the request being made of us we were astonished. How could any parent want to take their children out of properly heated, physically desirable school buildings in order to place their child in a dirty make-shift lean to where we didn’t even have electricity and so were having to revert to teaching techniques last used in the medieval period ?
The parents said to us that they understood all of that, but what they valued was the professionalism and expertise of the teachers. They wanted their son taught by our teachers and they were prepared to put up with the appalling physical situation, precisely because what they wanted for their son’s education was access to the kind of teachers and teaching which they were witnessing for themselves.
Obviously it would have been totally inappropriate, and practically impossible to go forward with this proposal. But it has made us really think hard about the ‘value’ of education. Education, delivered by professional skilled teachers is a valuable and desirable commodity. So, maybe we could look to sell some of the commodity to those who have a higher income, in order to then have the funding stream to make education available to refugees who have no resources ?
What we are beginning to wonder, therefore, is whether there are places in the middle east where it might be possible to open fee paying programmes to those with means, in order to subsidise refugee education centres in other places. Floating the suggestion amongst some of our contacts and supporters, we have already had suggestions back to us of places where indeed there is fee demand for education and so where there might be potential.
At the moment we have no idea if it would actually be feasible to move forward in this way. We do not have the experience of operating in Middle Eastern countries, let alone the experience or skills to open what would have to be educational businesses in those contexts. But we do know that there are a large number of Educational businesses which are making substantial amounts of money out of education. We heard recently of an International Education organisation which had just agreed loans for several hundred million dollars to open more fee paying schools.
On one level, this kind of approach would take us in a very different direction from what we want to do. But it would enable us to actually find the money we need to do the refugee teaching which we are trying to do, and most importantly of all it would set it up in a permanent, properly funded way.
We remain very grateful to the generosity of people who have funded our work, but we also know that it is highly unlikely that donations will ever constitute a sufficiently regular and strong funding stream, in order to enable proper programmes to be set up for significant amounts of time.
So in the absence of any definite substantial donation streams, maybe we should indeed be looking at ways of trying to make the Educational Aid more self-sustaining and self funding. At the moment we don’t know the answer to these kinds of questions as it is something that we have never thought about previously and we don’t yet have anyone with the expertise or means that we could seek further advice from. However, we clearly have a lot to ponder.