Africa Day is celebrated yearly on 25 May ever since the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity – the African Union’s predecessor – in 1963. On this day, the liberation and self-determination of the African continent is honoured. In moving the development of Africa ever more forward, education plays an undeniable and pivotal role. Discover how VVOB contributes to securing a solid education system for its partner countries in Africa.
17.7 million for equity in African education
2017 introduced the start of VVOB’s fourth multiannual programme, which is funded by Belgium with over 44 million euros. The 2017-2021 programme will run in nine countries, of which four in Africa, which translates into nearly 18 million euros. As was the case before, the key actors are teachers and school leaders. For the next five years, equity in education threads our operations.
In Rwanda (Eastern Province and Western Province) and South Africa (Pretoria and provinces of Free State and KwaZulu-Natal), the focus lies on teachers and school leaders in primary education. As a result of the previous programme in Rwanda, almost 400 school leaders successfully completed a CPD diploma course in Effective School Leadership. That course will be revised in the coming years to include more equity topics. The professional learning networks for school leaders will also be strengthened, and newly qualified teachers will be mentored by more experienced teachers at the beginning of their career. In South Africa, VVOB will capacitate primary teachers and school leaders through the existing professional development structures to effectively implement the national inclusive education policy.
In Central Province in Zambia, VVOB will streamline the teaching practice of all early childhood education (ECE) teachers in two areas: gender-responsive learning through play pedagogy, and use of Early Learning Development Standards.
VVOB Congo will keep up its good work in making technical agricultural education as relevant to the needs of the labour market as possible. In the province of Kongo Central, school leaders are strengthened, active and participatory teaching is reinforced with special attention to equity topics such as gender and environment, and students’ entrepreneurial ambitions and skills are encouraged.
Support from the EU
VVOB has secured additional financial support for its African partner countries from the European Union several times over the years. In Africa, two EU-co-funded projects are currently in operation: QEECS in Zambia, and ‘Improving Inclusive Teaching in Primary Schools’ in South Africa.
The QEECS-project in Zambia (‘Quality Early Education in Community Schools’) intensively supports eighteen community schools in Copperbelt Province to secure a fair start for marginalised young children. In cooperation with Zambia Open Community Schools and the Ministry of General Education, VVOB Zambia improves the professional development of ECE teachers, supports the realisation of infrastructural projects including classrooms and water and sanitation facilities, encourages local production of learning materials, and strengthens linkages between the schools and local authorities.
A more recent EU-co-funded project began its operations in the provinces of Free State, Northern Cape, and North West in South Africa last year. Inclusive education has been on the South African agenda for more than 15 years, but implementation has proven difficult. Alongside the DGD-programme mentioned above, VVOB South Africa also aims European funds at making inclusive education a reality. In cooperation with local partner Inclusive Education South Africa (IESA) and three South African universities, VVOB is designing a comprehensive approach that puts inclusive education at the centre of teacher professional development: in initial teacher education programmes, in induction programmes for newly qualified teachers, and in continuous professional development opportunities for in-service teachers. Open Educational Resources (OER) on inclusive education will be developed and shared with all providers of teacher professional development.
Since 2015, VVOB and the ELMA Foundation, an organisation equally committed to quality education in Africa, have been working on improving the mentorship and supervision of ECE student teachers during their teaching practice. Before the project started, the Zambian Ministry of General Education had urged more Colleges of Education to take up ECE as a core subject in their teacher training, which logically meant a much higher number of qualified ECE teachers would graduate. In order to uphold the standards of quality teacher training, VVOB and ELMA supported five Colleges of Education (of Chipata, Kasama, Kitwe, Livingstone, and Serenje) and the ministry in developing an institutionalised system of teaching practice for ECE student teachers. Going forward, teacher trainers from the colleges and in-service ECE teachers and school leaders will benefit from mentorship trainings to ensure that ECE student teachers are properly supervised during their teaching practice. After all, ensuring that teachers have the competences and motivation to perform well is key to guaranteeing educational quality and equity.
In 2017, the ELMA-VVOB-partnership also set foot in Rwanda, in Eastern Province more precisely. The focus on mentorship is present there too, but the beneficiaries are primary school teachers fresh out of college. They will receive support and guidance at the start of their careers from in-service teachers in their schools and from their teacher trainers thanks to VVOB’s mentorship trainings. This is a win-win situation: Teacher Training Colleges will experience the new teachers’ challenges first-hand and will be able to adapt their courses accordingly too.
Catching up with UNICEF
Being in school does not automatically mean that children learn. The net enrolment rate for primary education in Zambia was 98 per cent in the period between 2009 and 2013, yet 65 per cent of grade 2 pupils were unable to read a single word correctly in their own language in 2014. As discussed above, VVOB focusses Belgian, European and ELMA funds on early childhood education in Zambia. UNICEF also supports VVOB Zambia financially, but these funds are aimed at making sure primary school pupils in four districts in Eastern Province and Southern Province are not left behind.
Large, heterogeneous classrooms mean that pupils who lack basic skills never have the chance to catch up, paving the way for demotivation and drop-out. The goal of the Catch Up project is to deliver a pilot to improve pupils’ learning outcomes through a targeted, teaching-at-the-right-level (TaRL) approach. This approach aims to rapidly improve the literacy and numeracy results among learners in grades 3 to 5 by grouping learning according to learning levels, rather than age or grade. VVOB is gathering data of the pilot to inform a potential scale-up of the programme.
Partnering up for SDG 4
VVOB can count on 150 driven employees, of which a large group of education experts. “But besides our own people, we also involve more than twenty external education partners in our work,” VVOB’s programme director Sven Rooms comments. “We invest in sustainable partnerships with University Colleges from Europe, who offer their expertise and input in our activities worldwide. We also value our partnerships with strong African organisations like FAWE. Our partnerships cover a wide range of activities. In a nutshell: whenever we feel we lack a certain expertise, we ask for assistance.”
“In the coming years, our existing partnerships will deepen, and new partnerships will be forged and fostered. Quality education is a global right, one that we need to defend and promote together. Strong partnerships pave the way.”