by Heather Barclay

Once a year SET representatives visit Togo.  Their goals remain simple and consistent.  To review needs and challenges faced by existing SET schools.  To evaluate dreams and capacity in communities for new SET schools.

In April 2016, SET Director Don Barclay and SET Communications Officer Heather Barclay spent three weeks in southern Togo, the Region Maritime.  We visited six SET schools and two potential sites for new schools.  We talked to village councils, to local chiefs, to school administrators, to parents, and to students.  Everywhere we heard their hope speak loudly, clearly, and confidently.

In Agbelouve, SET’s first school, we heard a teacher link his passion for teaching with the security he feels working in a solid building where his lessons can go on uninterrupted by torrential rains.

In Asso, the village chief appealed to SET to repair a non-SET school.  A good chief, he knew how SET partners with Ryan’s Well, the Canadian-based agency focussed onwater.   He brought us to the school’s dried-out cistern to urge on SET’s advocacy for clean water.

At the most recently-built SET school in Atsanveglo, the principal pointed out details in the construction.  He emphasized the lower temperature inside the cross-ventilated class-rooms.  In thanking donors for the notebooks, chalk, stapler, and soccer ball that we brought, his sincerity emphasized how seriously Togolese want their children to learn.

So serious is that wish for all children that in Atiyi, the king of the village went to the nomads in the area offering their children places in the school.  To date an additional 100 nomadic children attend the Atiyi SET school.

On a Saturday morning in Kati/Agou the whole community came out to support the need for a new school.  Singers, dancers, drummers made the hand-scripted community request beautiful.  The mountain of sand we were shown for making the school’s cement bricks supported the request practically.

Outside of school visits, we spent time with Laurent Dekalikan, President of Action Enfance et Développement (AED), and his wife Gladys.  As SET’s partner, AED scouts new school sites, builds schools – on budget and on time – and actively participates with communities in maintaining SET schools.

The Dekalikans keep seeking ways to make the SET system better.  Recently, to help volunteer teachers qualify for their yet-to-come government positions, AED has set up a volunteer-teacher training program run by a retired school principal.

On this trip we discovered more than we could have imagined.  We knew from five years of experience that SET Togo is working.  What came through to us is the dynamic and healthy growth of students, within schools, within the SET system of schools, and within the communities where there are SET schools.

For this we thank our donors who provide the fuel  for Support. Education. Togo.  A reminder that 100% of every dollar donated goes to building schools and developing minds in Togo.