Selected Baha’i Social and Economic Development Projects
Prepared by the Office of Social and Economic Development.
This document provides an overview of some of the more substantial development activities undertaken by Baha’is worldwide. Each description is based on the information available at the Baha’i World Centre at the time of its preparation and may not reflect the current status of the project.
Association for the Promotion and Development of Integrated Pisciculture (APRODEPIT)
The Association for the Promotion and Development of Integrated Pisiculture has its head-quarters in Sarh, a city on the Chari River in southern Chad. It began its activities in 1985 and was recognized as a nongovernmental organization by the national government in 1992. By 2000, it had set up 172 fish farming projects in lakes, creeks, and artificial ponds in a number of villages throughout the southern region of the country. APRODEPIT’s activities support 250 fishermen’s groups that train local entrepreneurs in the technical aspects of farming and raising fish, 150 women’s organizations whose members sell cereal and fish and are eligible for microcredit loans, and individual fishermen in need of credit to acquire materials and tools. As a result of APRODEPIT’s success in conserving the region’s wildlife–notably, in fostering the increase in the population of hippopotamuses from 2 to 50 within ten years–the government of Chad has declared a large tract of land to be a National Natural Reserve. In order to pursue an expanded range of community development goals, APRODEPIT created the Center for the Learning of Moral Virtues (CAVM) and the Group for the Reflection on the Condition of Women and Children (GRCFE). Between 1995 and 2000, GRCFE worked with a number of preschool and primary schools and trained more than 400 teachers reaching some 1,900 children. CAVM owns facilities in which it teaches literacy to young children and conducts sewing classes for women.
Institut Baha’i Ola
North Kivu and South Kivu
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Institut Baha’i Ola is located in the easternmost part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the border with Rwanda and Burundi. Despite the political strife that has characterized this central African nation in the past decade, the institute has evolved into a strong agency that actively trains human resources and carries out extension programs to increase the community’s capacity for health care, education, and agricultural production. By September 2001, Ola managed over 100 literacy centers for adults, and assisted six primary schools by conducting teacher training and providing curricular materials. The institute also supports a network of community health workers, encourages cultural and artistic initiatives for youth, and promotes activities that foster the advancement of women. As part of the Chidoro agricultural project, farmers grow crops on land owned by the institute. A special focus of the institute is a project that serves the Bayanda people of North Kivu. The project carries forward activities that began in 1993 with education and literacy. Agricultural advisors offer technical assistance for the cultivation of cassava, beans, soya, sweet potatoes, and bananas and for the operation of small-scale animal breeding activities involving mainly chickens, rabbits, and goats. Bayanda women learn skills such as mat weaving. And, in 2002, scholarships were provided to 60 Bayanda children to attend primary and secondary schools.
Sabri Development Institute
Founded in 1996, the Sabri Development Institute, with headquarters in Addis Ababa, promotes capacity-building programs in the fields of literacy and health in various communities in Ethiopia. Many training activities are carried out among local populations in the Oromiya region in southern Ethiopia, one of the materially poorest areas of the country. The literacy program focuses on teaching reading skills to children and junior youth, especially girls. From its inception, this program has enjoyed the support of the community. Tutors participate in an intensive seven-day training seminar; most are volunteers eager to improve reading skills in their own communities. Of those students who have participated in literacy classes, 85 percent were reported to have performed well when they enrolled in formal schools, sometimes jumping one or more grade levels. In January 2002, the literacy effort reached some 250 children and youth through the work of 33 trained volunteers. The health education program imparts information and demonstrates practices related to personal and community health to families in Oromiya. One member of selected families, preferably the mother, is trained to be a health tutor. By April 2002, fifty-four such health tutors and one professional health provider were working with approximately 500 households.
Two Wings Education and Communication International
Two Wings Education and Communication International is an Ethiopian agency that
operates Two Wings Academy and Brilliant Children’s Newspaper, both endeavors
concerned with promoting the moral transformation of society. Two Wings Academy began classes in June 2002 and ten months later had 65 children in kindergarten and grades one and two. Its curriculum prepares young people to become helpers in their neighborhoods and citizens of the world. By March 2003 the school also had 145 students in its tutorial classes for primary and secondary education and in its short-term enrichment courses in subjects like English and computer science. The Brilliant Children’s Newspaper is a bimonthly publication in Amharic intended to foster good character and leadership skills in children. Its contents include stories to guide the moral development of children, a column with commentary on the spiritual solution of social issues, and a section for teachers. Youth can earn a commission by selling the newspaper. In 2003, Two Wings International started a series of weekly training sessions for more than 600 young people, from some 300 municipal sectors of Addis Ababa, who serve as its sales agents.At these gatherings emphasis is placed on personal transformation and on acquiring skills for social action.
The Olinga Foundation for Human Development
The Olinga Foundation for Human Development was formed in June 1999 to promote
literacy and moral education in primary and junior secondary schools, especially among girl students, in rural areas of Ghana. The Foundation’s main initiative is the Enlightening the Hearts literacy project, which operates in a number of government primary and junior secondary schools. In October 2001, and again in October 2002, the Foundation offered workshops to some 60 teachers from about 40 schools in the western region of the country. Teachers were equipped with textbooks for their students and the skills needed to effectively teach basic reading and writing in the local languages, Ewe and Twi. The workshops dealt with classroom management skills and methods of discipline, and also stressed the cultivation of moral principles including honesty, responsibility, trustworthiness, and compassion.
After the October 2001 training, five participating schools spontaneously abandoned the use of corporal punishment in favor of alternative approaches to discipline. In the 2001-2002 school year, the average rate of literacy in the schools at which the project had been introduced rose from 10 percent to 47 percent, with approximately 2,500 students reaching a basic level of literacy. The Olinga Foundation is now creating English-language modules to complement its curriculum.
The Bambino Schools provide formal education for all ages, serving the urban community of the capital, Lilongwe. In 1993 a nursery section and a primary school were established; one year later a secondary school was added, and in 1998 a secretarial and computer college was introduced. The schools operate under a single, private, nonprofit organization managed by a board of directors that consults regularly with a parent-teachers association. The aim is to provide a high standard of education and an environment in which students will develop their full potential in the areas of academic excellence, practical skills, physical fitness, and moral responsibility. As part of their extracurricular programs, the Bambino Schools sponsor three service clubs that give students the opportunity to serve in the preschool program, in the First Aid Club, and in the Environment and Art Club. The primary school also offers free adult literacy classes to the wider community. In January 2002 a hostel was built that houses 110 girls, most of them secondary students. By January 2003 total enrollment had reached almost 1,100, with 100 in the nursery program, 700 in primary grades, 250 in the secondary level, and 30 in the secretarial college.
Agence de Developpement Social et Economique (ADESEC)
The Agence de Developpement Social et Economique was established in Niamey, the capital of Niger, in July 1994, to promote activities for health and education, particularly in the western region of the country. In subsequent years, the agency’s pursuits included courses in first aid and widespread vaccination programs. In collaboration with the health authorities of the Makalondi and Gourma regions, ADESEC arranged for immunization against measles for 2,000 individuals, and against meningitis for some 3,500. In response to the high rates of illiteracy among rural populations, the agency carried out a number of efforts to enhance reading skills in the Gourma region. In 2002, ADESEC instituted the Projet d’Education et de Formation au Niger (PEFN), a three-year initiative to bring the principles of moral and character education to bear on programs for teacher training, on curricula for secondary school students, and on courses for parents. The effort is being carried out in collaboration with Lycee Enoch Olinga, a Baha’i-inspired school for children in grades 6-9. One long-term objective of PEFN is to produce educational materials that can be made available to secondary schools in francophone Africa.
Royal Falcon Education Initiative
The Royal Falcon Education Initiative is an agency dedicated to the promotion of moral values among teenagers and young adults in South Africa. Its primary tool is the Youth Enrichment Programme (YEP). YEP currently consists of a text that contains lessons on such pressing issues as HIV/AIDS, alcohol and drug use, multiculturalism and prejudice, and character development; materials on other topics are being prepared. YEP was first implemented in the year 2000 at a teacher training college in Pretoria. Twenty-two teachers were instructed in how to present it, seven of whom went on to offer the program in their own classes. In May 2000, fourteen high school youth were trained to conduct YEP courses, which were well received by teachers, principals, and government officials, including representatives of the South African Ministry of Education. By December 2002, twenty-nine facilitators were offering the full program at eighteen middle and high schools throughout South Africa. At one of them, YEP is being used in collaboration with other local secondary schools as a way of resolving common behavioral problems among students. In addition, the University of Pretoria and a prison are using YEP. Outside of South Africa the program is being tested, for example, in Botswana, Madagascar, Lesotho, and Swaziland.
The Baha’i Schools, located in Mbabane, comprise preprimary, primary, and secondary levels under a single board of directors. The preprimary and primary schools were established in the early 1990s; the Setsembiso Sebunye High School was inaugurated in January 2000. All provide an environment conducive to the spiritual development and the moral training of students. By April 2001, the schools had a combined enrollment of over 600 students and nearly 30 staff. Teachers in the preprimary school are trained to use Montessori-based programs and to develop their own curricular materials. In 2001, the Baha’i primary school distinguished itself in the standard five examinations; out of more than 500 primary schools in Swaziland, it obtained second place in test score average for all students. The high school’s human development program, well recognized for its involvement in the struggle to halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, reaches out to students in ten other schools and to more than 600 families. Information about HIV/AIDS and about the values and attitudes necessary to curb the country’s soaring infection rates is presented at workshops, in classes, and through the media, with students creating their own radio and television spots, videos, T-shirts, posters, and Web pages.In 2000 the high school received a donation of 57 Pentium 133 computers from the Mona Foundation in the United States, enabling it to set up one of the most advanced technology labs in the country.
Ruaha Secondary School
Ruaha Secondary School is a nonprofit educational institution owned and operated by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Tanzania. A policy committee, named by the National Assembly, which works closely with a board of governors appointed by the Ministry of Education of Tanzania, guides the management of the school. Established in 1986, the school strives to apply Baha’i teachings to every aspect of its functioning, while embracing the religious diversity of its students, who are Baha’is, Christians, and Muslims. Ruaha is distinguished by the high importance it places on the education of girls. The school is coeducational, but the boarding facilities are for girls only, and a scholarship program administered in cooperation with the World Bank and the Ministry of Education makes full scholarships available to a number of female students annually. The Tanzanian national curriculum for forms I-IV (grades 8-11) is offered with an emphasis on agriculture and within a distinct framework of moral education. The academic program consists of courses in English, mathematics, social science, chemistry, biology, physics, agriculture, and computer science. Activities for social and economic development are an integral part of the school’s programs and include a dairy enterprise, crop production, a computer facility, a fishpond, and a sewing project. In 2002, the school had 35 full-time teachers and a student enrollment of 491.
Uganda Programme of Literacy for Transformation (UPLIFT)
Uganda Programme of Literacy for Transformation was established to help raise the level of reading among the people of Uganda, where, in 2000, out of a total adult population of 10 million, almost 4 million-mostly women–were illiterate. UPLIFT is a non-governmental organization registered in Uganda that serves as one of a number of local partners in a government initiative to combat poverty through literacy. This concerted endeavor receives encouragement and assistance from international agencies. UPLIFT’s efforts began in 2001 when it trained 35 literacy facilitators who reached about 200 participants in Jonam County. By October 2002 the program was reaching over 700 learners in 36 villages in Jonam and Padyere Counties. Apart from addressing the mechanics of reading and writing, UPLIFT stresses the necessity of promoting the equality of women and men and of encouraging participants, most of whom are parents, to include their children in the learning process, for example, by reading to them. Texts for facilitators and students are available in English and in local languages, with lessons on such relevant subjects as fostering social and economic development initiatives, improving health conditions, preventing HIV, preserving the environment, and understanding the importance of universal education.
William Mmutle Masetlha Foundation
The William Mmutle Masetlha Foundation is a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization with its seat located on 200 hectares of agricultural land situated in Chisamba, about 80 kilometers north of Lusaka. While its origins date back to 1983, the Foundation was organized under its present structure in 1995. The major programs of the Foundation include the Capstone Education Program, the Health Education Program, the Agriculture Research Program, the Banani International Secondary School, and a general training program to develop capabilities for service. Capstone is a village tutorial program that seeks to consolidate the primary education of junior youth, prepare them for a secondary-level education, and enable them to contribute to the progress of their communities. The Health Program has trained dozens of individuals serving an increasing number of communities in Zambia, and is developing a series of primary-health training materials that have been implemented locally and in Cameroon, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Ethiopia. The Agriculture Research Program consists of modest research and demonstration projects on sustainable agriculture. The Banani Secondary School, a residential academic school for girls, was established in 1993 and had an enrollment, in 2002, of 130 students in grades 8-12. A primary school for boys and girls also functions under the Foundation.
Children and Youth Ambassadors for Peace Foundation
Inspired by UNESCO’s declaration of an International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010), a young Baha’i couple living in Resistencia, Argentina, established the nonprofit foundation Children and Youth Ambassadors for Peace. The aim of the organization is to empower children to acquire a vision of a peaceful society and the capacities required to translate that vision into reality. The foundation’s main pursuit is the Children’s Service-Oriented Leadership Program, in which young people ages 10 to 12 gather in groups called “circles of peace,” in order to read about, and reflect on, the subject of peace; to develop capabilities for community service; and to engage in exploring their artistic and creative talents. Trained youth facilitate the groups. In 2000, activities of the foundation included two Friendship and Peace Workshops for fifteen year olds in Resistencia which attracted more than 100 students. In 2002, the agency’s course for training teachers in peace education was approved for use in the province of Chaco by the Provincial Ministry of Education. In 2003, apart from its work with children and youth, the foundation offered a course on strategic development for nongovernmental organizations.
Universidad de las Naciones Integracion, Desarrollo y Ambiente (UNIDA)
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Universidad de las Naciones Integracion, Desarrollo y Ambiente, founded in 1996 with an initial enrollment of 22, has grown to an institution with some 150 students and a core group of 15 professors and 70 adjunct lecturers. It offers graduate-level instruction in four areas: sustainable development, social anthropology, human development, and organizational processes. As part of its program, UNIDA provides regular training courses intended to strengthen civil society and to promote participatory models of development. Since 1996 over 500 students in the province of San Juan, and 50 students at the university’s satellite centers in Rosario and Viedma, have completed courses with UNIDA. The organization has received funding for specific training programs including a grant from the municipal government of Buenos Aires to train 20 unemployed people in how to start microenterprises for recycling, and support from Women in Equality to train 20 women from local development agencies in leadership skills. UNIDA’s publications office has produced and distributed five books on topics related to social and economic development, and publishes a quarterly magazine, ECO: Ecologia y Unidad Mundial, that deals with environmental and social awareness.
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Located in the city of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, Universidad Nur was founded in 1985 with just 97 students. Its educational philosophy advocates the integration of academic knowledge with both practical experience and the teaching of basic moral principles, while emphasizing community service, social justice, and a respect for human diversity. In 2001, the university had over 3,000 graduate and undergraduate students working toward degrees in 17 fields of study including accounting, communications, agricultural economics, education, commercial engineering, computer science, international commerce, business administration, and rural medicine. In addition, hundreds of students enroll each year in its nonformal educational programs. The university has collaborated with such non-governmental organizations as the World Health Organization and with educational institutions in other countries on research and development projects to promote literacy, moral leadership, public health, public administration and governance, the advancement of women, and sustainable development. Universidad Nur’s specialized program for training in moral leadership–based on the acquisition of moral capabilities–has been presented to teachers and government administrators in some 400 rural communities in Bolivia. The program has also spread to over a dozen other Latin American countries, as well as to North America, Africa, and Europe.
Universidad Tecnica Privada de Santa Cruz (UTEPSA)
Santa Cruz, Bolivia
The Universidad Tecnica Privada de Santa Cruz was started by a group of educators whose vision was to have a technical training school at which educational and administrative policy would be guided by moral values. By 1995, this endeavor had evolved into a technical university with some 320 students. In 2001, UTEPSA was certified as a fully accredited university by the Ministry of Education and Sports, recognition enjoyed by eight of Bolivia’s thirty-three private universities. UTEPSA’s Universal Technical Institute offers inexpensive short-term courses aimed at making the benefits of higher education available to the poor in Santa Cruz. By 2002, UTEPSA was offering courses of study in sixteen areas of specialization to some 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university works closely with the region’s business sector; in 2001-2002 it offered training to personnel from 197 companies throughout the country. The graduate program, established in June 1997, offers master’s degrees in management, finance, and marketing; it has close ties to Havana University in Cuba, to Columbus University in Panama, and the Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico. The facilities of the university include a modern library, well-equipped laboratories and workshops, and a sports complex. In 2002, over 100 students earned degrees from UTEPSA in five undergraduate and three graduate programs.
Associacao Monte Carmelo (AMC)
Porto Feliz, Brazil
The Associacao Monte Carmelo, established in 1992, is an educational center that promotes the intellectual, physical, and spiritual development of children and adolescents. The agency, situated near the town of Porto Feliz about 140 kilometres from Sao Paulo, was recognized in 1995 as a public interest institution by the city council. In the school system in that region of Brazil, children attend formal classes for only half a day, some in the mornings and some in the afternoons, leaving many of them unsupervised and unoccupied for the remainder of the day. AMC provides an engaging and productive alternative to life in the streets. Over the last ten years, scores of young people between the ages of seven and fourteen, from all religious backgrounds and ethnic groups, have attended the rural 84,000-square-meter facility during weekday hours when they were not in school. While at the center they learn and recite prayers; attend tutorial classes to reinforce studies, for example, in mathematics and reading; get help with their homework; and participate in outdoor recreation. AMC is concerned not only with stressing traditional academic subjects but also with having a positive influence on the children’s character. Virtues such as cleanliness, love, kindness, generosity, and integrity are taught and put into practice. A “virtue of the week” is the theme of classes, songs, artwork, and group exercises. The selfless efforts of many volunteers, including local people and businesses but in particular mothers, are contributing to the upkeep and growth of AMC. Some 150 boys and girls were enrolled in 2002.
Associacao para o Desenvolvimento Coesivo da Amazonia (ADCAM)
The Associacao para o Desenvolvimento Coesivo da Amazonia is a nonprofit organization based on Baha’i principles that, since 1984, has been dedicated to the education and development of the population of the state of Amazonas. ADCAM’s major initiatives include the Masrour School, the Youth Leadership Program, the Juvenile Assistance Program, the Tahirih College of Education, and various professional improvement courses. In August 2001 the Masrour Vocational School had an enrollment of 518 students in classes from preschool through the eleventh grade. The Youth Leadership Program, which began in 1990, offers approximately 120 youth ages 8 to 14 a four-hour after-school program that includes spiritual enrichment, training in sports, and leadership courses.The Juvenile Assistance Program focuses on the social rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. The Tahirih College of Education, a teacher training college that offers a baccalaureate degree program for schoolteachers, was opened in July 2002 with 100 students, 50 percent of whom receive full scholarships. In 2001, the Ministry of Education approved funding for the construction of facilities to house a new institute for vocational training.
School of the Nations
The School of the Nations, located in Brazil’s capital city, Brasilia, opened its doors in 1980 to children from all cultures and religious backgrounds. During the 2001-2002 academic year, 560 students representing 42 nationalities were enrolled in its elementary and secondary programs, and received instruction in both Portuguese and English. The school aims at preparing students to participate actively in the creation of a global society in which dialogue and cooperation can be used constructively in service to the community. Specially designed educational materials are created for use in many classes. Participation in service projects is an integral component of the curriculum, which includes the following subjects: language, mathematics, science, social studies, art, music, physical education, and computer science. The social studies program emphasizes the unique contribution that different cultures make to the unfoldment of a world civilization.
Canadian Baha’i International Development Services (CBIDS)
The Canadian Baha’i International Development Services was incorporated in 1981 for the purpose of acquiring funds for Baha’i social and economic development projects from those government agencies and private sector organizations in Canada that make monies available for humanitarian endeavors. Since its inception, CBIDS has been successful in obtaining more than C$2.2 million (Canadian dollars) for primary health care projects in Kenya, Zambia, and Uganda; for culturally appropriate radio programming in Bolivia and Ecuador; for integrated rural development in Haiti; for literacy and vocational training pursuits in India; and for the expansion of two large rural secondary education programs in Colombia and Honduras. In addition to securing funds, CBIDS has a monitoring role and provides support, as appropriate. At the request of the projects it works with around the world, CBIDS may assist with the design of proposals, the evaluation of programs, and the training of staff on such topics as management and gender equality. To keep the Canadian public informed about trends in international development, CBIDS has arranged for the production of videos featuring the education projects in Colombia and Honduras.
Maxwell International Baha’i School
British Columbia, Canada
Maxwell International Baha’i School is a coeducational residential secondary school that offers a government-approved curriculum of language, visual and performing arts, mathematics, history, science, and social studies. The aim of the Maxwell School is to prepare students for global citizenship by fostering their spiritual, emotional, intellectual, social, and physical development. From an initial enrollment of 47 students in 1988, the student body had increased to 152 students from 38 countries by 2002. The facilities are situated in an expansive setting on the shores of Shawnigan Lake, 40 minutes from Victoria, British Columbia. Community service projects, coordinated by the Maxwell Community Service Institute, have had a positive effect on the surrounding area, and other schools have emulated Maxwell’s example. Such projects have included the ecological renovation of streams and the rendering of assistance to children, youth, and the elderly. Through its dramatic portrayal of social problems such as racism and drug abuse, Maxwell’s dance workshop has received acclaim from audiences across North America.