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Community needs assessment questions The school management committee should engage with a broad range of stakeholders to find out what issues are important to cover in a needs assessment. While each context is unique, needs assessments may include questions such as: • Are existing school buildings vulnerable to hazards? • Have existing buildings been damaged by disaster? • Do students have trouble accessing education because of distance or dangers they face while commuting to school? • What grades would a new school serve? • Does the school building need to serve multiple functions, such as a shelter during hazards or a community gathering point? • Can the school rectify existing educational inequality by enhancing access for girls, minorities, disabled children or others? • Due to remoteness or cultural custom, does the building need to include teacher housing or other auxiliary features like large meeting halls, gymnasiums or kitchens? • What innovations or community aspirations does the community want the school to include? For example, should the school include gardens, rainwater harvesting, electricity generation or specific cultural elements? • What will make a positive learning environment? SECTION III: PLANNING By assessing need, the school management committee can develop criteria to guide the Planning and Design Stages. Program managers and the committee can also identify local resource persons and external experts who can advise the committee on strategies for addressing identified needs through the constructi on process. IN CONTEXT The importance of a needs assessment In response to a request from one Maasai community leader, a new NGO built a small school in the rural Massai Mara in Kenya. The school was high quality, but they built with limited presence on-site and limited dialogue with other stakeholders. Unknown to the NGO, a government-built and staffed public school was just one kilometre away with almost no-one living between. In the remote DRC Plateau region, building safer schools starts with a community consultation to identify location requirements (distance from surrounding villages, known hazards, security, location of raw materials, etc). This engages the community from the outset and is also an opportunity for women and children to be included in discussions and decisions. Photo: Amy Parker/Children in Crisis. 45 In Kenya, public school is technically free, but the costs of lunch, uniforms and exam fees turn public education into a financial burden for many. To stem the strain, the NGO required a flat monthly attendance fee of US$0.22, which undercuts the price of the nearby public school. Parents sent students to the new school in droves. After one year, class sizes ballooned to more than 60 students, overdrawing school resources and making the public school redundant. Although the new school was well-constructed, an independent comprehensive needs-based assessment would have created dialogue with the local government and other stakeholders. With increased coordination, the NGO may have better served the educational needs of the community by expanding the existing school so all students in the area benefited or by building a new school at another site where children did not have access to any school.