In 2016, VVOB’s first partnership with the ELMA Foundation in Zambia came to a successful close when the teaching practice and mentoring system for early childhood education was institutionalised. The fruitful cooperation inspired the organisations to continue their partnership: in Zambia, the teaching practice system is further strengthened, while in Rwanda newly qualified primary teachers are better supported in their new schools.
The ELMA-VVOB partnership took off in 2015. The ELMA Foundation supported VVOB to develop the capacity of five Colleges of Education in Zambia in their efforts to incorporate early childhood education (ECE) in their teacher training programmes. This followed the country’s Ministry of General Education’s (MoGE) call to take up ECE in teacher training programmes, as the ministry recognised the importance of ECE for a learner’s education. The colleges who accepted the challenge, understood that this would require developing additional capacity if they were to uphold certain standards of quality teacher education. VVOB focused specifically on improving the mentoring and supervision of ECE student teachers during their teaching practice.
By the end of this first project in Zambia 18 months later, an institutionalised system of quality mentorship and supervision during ECE teaching practice was set up. The system formally connects the relevant key actors in student teachers’ training, and assigns roles and responsibilities to these actors. It is coordinated by MoGE.
ELMA and VVOB did not wrap up their partnership there. A second joint effort in Zambia builds on the first. To further develop the institutionalised system of teaching practice, VVOB focuses on the professional development of teachers and school leaders. Student teachers in Zambia often find themselves in schools in rural areas for their teaching practice, where they have to teach in difficult circumstances. They still receive too little guidance and support from their inset colleagues and school leaders, partly due to a lack of knowledge and skills on their part.
This second ELMA-VVOB project envisions two concrete results by the end of 2019. On the one hand, a mentorship programme for teacher trainers of the Colleges of Education is developed. On the other, the professional development of inset ECE teachers and school leaders of teaching practice schools is strengthened on mentorship. In other words, the project further builds on the results and lessons learnt in the previous project, with special attention going to the quality guidance of student teachers. To achieve this, VVOB can again count on financial support from the ELMA Foundation.
The ELMA-VVOB partnership recently crossed some African borders too. Since 2017, VVOB has also been developing a mentorship system in Rwanda with ELMA’s financial support, but for newly qualified primary teachers. There is a big group of them in Rwanda, and their motivation and talent are crucial for the quality of the primary education system.
In this five-year project, experienced teachers are equipped with the knowledge and tools to step up as reliable mentors for new teachers in their schools. Moreover, the new teachers can count on additional support from their teacher trainers of the Teacher Training Centres. This combination of mentorship and support not only ensures that newly qualified teachers are better prepared at the start of their career, but Teacher Training Centres are also updated on the challenges faced by their graduates in practice. A win-win for all.