Inspired by “From vulnerability to resilience: Promoting graduation in orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) programs”, organized by the OVC Task Force and AVSI-USA last year in Washington DC, AVSI Uganda has realized a similar event on March 15, 2017, at the Speke Resort Munyonyo. At the event, named “Experience sharing of the graduation and resilience model”, AVSI presented the most recent results of the Sustainable Comprehensive Responses (SCORE) Program for vulnerable children and their families model to 190 participants including the USAID mission, Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, local governments, academia, other development partners, civil society and activity participants/ beneficiaries.
“At AVSI Foundation, we recognize that vulnerability of children and their families is a major impediment to the attainment of a balanced development. Whenever we talk about vulnerability, key concepts such as inequality and inequity become common words, ” said John Makoha, AVSI Uganda Country Representative. “To us, therefore, tackling child and household vulnerability is not just a social but also a political imperative - a way of gaining social fairness and economic efficiency of the community.”
Funded by USAID, this program is currently implemented by AVSI Uganda together with FHI360, CARE, and TPO Uganda, as well as hundreds of local partners. The program uses an integrated graduation model that is reaching over 31,000 households. To date, roughly 7,000 households have proudly graduated, while another 5,800 are in the pre-graduation stage. Thanks to SCORE, household income tripled, child labor and child abuse were reduced by more than 80%; malnutrition decreased by 74%; school enrollment increased by almost 20% while school absenteeism was reduced by 70%.
“74% of the beneficiaries who graduate remain resilient,” added Rita Larok, Chief of Party SCORE, AVSI Foundation. “Graduation corresponds with happiness as beneficiaries get out of the program, they are excited. Through tailored and individual family responsive interventions, we have been able to extend needed services to beneficiaries.”
During the event, Mark Meassick, USAID Uganda Mission Director, said that it was a great occasion to celebrate the evolution of a successful model, “a model,” he described in his speech, “developed in Uganda for Ugandans that makes a very valuable addition to the global effort, to empower poor families to become more resilient and better equipped to deal with shocks.”
Meassick also described Uganda’s current situation. The country is in the midst of a “demographic tsunami”. It is the fastest growing population of its size on the entire planet. Only 10% of Ugandans are over 45 years old; 52% are under 15. The average Ugandan is a 14-year-old girl. She is one of six children, living in a rural area. Her family is poor and her survival depends on agriculture, casual labor and remittances. Her family is likely to be food insecure in some way. She is vulnerable to economic, political and environmental shocks. Within this country context, 2.7 million Ugandan children are orphaned, almost half as a result of HIV/AIDS.
“SCORE is addressing this issues. By mapping families’ individual needs and aligning specific resources and services with a household plan, SCORE has not only successfully lifted families from vulnerability, but also helped them to build levels of resilience that protected them from falling back from the depths of vulnerability,” said Meassick. “USAID is proud to have partnered with the Government of Uganda and AVSI Foundation in building an evidence base for more responsive and sustainable development programming for orphans and vulnerable children.”
Meddie*, 11 years old, escaped his home because of the constant beatings. His mother Ritah* is a single mother of four who works as a street vendor and earns about $41/month to support her family.
“ She used to beat me for playing too much, when I was eating the maize that was left at night, or because I was not doing work at home!” remembers Meddie.
Meddie lived on the streets for two days and endured more beatings, coldness and the constant search for food. The following day, Meddie went to Retrak center. Retrak is a local partner of AVSI for the Family Resilience (FARE) project implemented by AVSI and funded by the ASPIRES project of FHI360. Meddie had heard of the center from a peer.
When Meddie arrived at Club House, one of Retrak’s centers, all he had eaten since leaving his home was a chapatti and beans. At the center, he was reserved and had a hard time making friends. When asked about his home location and his family, he had a negative attitude and was reluctant to answer. It was only with time and through different rehabilitative programs that the center offers that Meddie started opening up and sharing. Through life skill lessons, counseling, and story sharing, Meddie began to look at his life in a more positive way.
Meddie, started making friends, getting along with others, doing chores and learning how to communicate. The center helped Meddie identify and learn positive ways of dealing with his problems and making decisions. Eventually, the Retrak counselors began to ask about his interest in going back home.
“I need to go home and apologize to my mother, she lives alone and I am sure that she has no one to leave my siblings with when I am not home,” concluded Meddie.
FARE is centered on the process of reintegration; of bringing families back together. In order to reintegrate a child with his family, the family is first located and the child brought back to the family. While the family is initially being reunited, the social workers help mend the wrong done, helping the family and child accept each other again. The social workers also ensure that it is a safe environment for the child. This is a process of healing and restoring relationships. The reintegration of the child in school is also an important aspect. While the children are in the centers, waiting for the process of family reintegration, they receive life skills lessons and “catch up” classes to help them bridge the gap and not get too far behind in school.
In Meddie’s case, his mother came to pick him up from the center, after having reported a disappearance case to the Nabweru police that managed to trace Meddie at Retrak center. His mother broke into tears when she saw him. Meddie, upon seeing his mother, immediately knelt down in tears saying, “Mummy I am very sorry, I am asking for your forgiveness and acceptance back home.” Ritah confessed that one night when she was looking for Meddie in the slums, she got a tip-off from other children, who came and slept late at night on the streets. That same night, the police rescued her from men who were going to rape her.
After they were reunited, Ritah received Meddie with love and promised to take good care of him. She warned him about the negative influence of peers and urged him to always be disciplined back at home.
Part of the reunification process are the follow up visits done by social workers to ensure a good situation for the child and the family. Meddie was first followed up in March 2016, and the social worker continued family dialogues on parenting with Meddie’s family. Yet, Meddie was not in school so Retrak agreed with Ritah to cost share the school fees. Meddie was placed in Abbey Foundation Primary School in Nabwery in Primary Four.
On the recent follow up on August 2016, the social workers found Meddie in school at Abbey Foundation Primary School. The teachers reported that the child is well disciplined; he cares for others and currently is the head prefect at school. His mother Ritah confirmed his accomplishments and stated that his behavior was very good.
Meddie’s story is one of many. Every week, children find their ways to Retrak and other local partners like COWA and after receiving life skills lessons, counseling and the correct assistance and attention, they can finally rediscover their path. Through finding the family, allowing for a good reunification and with the power of follow-up visits and individualized support, the project ensures continual family dialogues on parenting, respect and child welfare. The family situation is looked after more closely and guided towards being economically strengthened and sustainable.
* all names have been changed for privacy reasons
Prepared by Jackie Aldrette, AVSI-USA. Please send comments and suggestions to Jackie.firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, the OVC Task Force and AVSI-USA co-sponsored an event entitled “From Vulnerability to Resilience: Promoting Graduation in OVC Programs.” The event was designed to facilitate a dialogue among practitioners and with policy-makers and researchers with the goal of taking stock of how graduation approaches to OVC programs are being used today, what the variations in application of the model look like and what results are emerging.
The organizers laid out to the group of 65 participants representing a number of NGOs and donor agencies a preliminary task of clarifying the definition of graduation in terms of OVC programs. As implied in the event title, the dialogue began from a shared framework that the goal of OVC programs is to reach highly vulnerable children and their families and facilitate their transition to greater well-being and stability, with the ideal goal of resilient households providing the conditions for children to thrive. OVC programs have evolved over time and now incorporate economic strengthening of the household has a key element of the effort to build coping and caring capacities of caregivers of children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Central to the structure of the event were two project presentations. These presentations explained how the implementing organizations, AVSI Foundation and FXB, are utilizing graduation concepts and putting them into practice, as well as the results which have emerged.
From the first discussion guided by Jason Wolfe of USAID, it was clear that while a number of central concepts of the graduation approach are clear and shared, there are differences in opinion as well. One axis of debate was around whether graduation is a project-specific concept that involves a clear threshold that a person or household must pass in order to graduate from direct project support, or to a less intense level of support. Alternatively, graduation could be considered as a vision of the ideal end-state of empowerment, self-sufficiency and the capacity to access the services that a person or household needs to maintain a satisfactory level of well-being.
The AVSI SCORE project in Uganda has operationalized the graduation model as a programming tool, intrinsically linked to the project’s case management system and on-going vulnerability assessment. In SCORE, a household graduates when they demonstrate reduced vulnerability across a number of domains and successfully over at least 2 years. Resilience is used to define the status of a household who has graduated and maintained the same reduced level of vulnerability for at least another year.
The FXB Village model in Rwanda and elsewhere uses a classic approach to graduation in which the program is designed with an end-state of empowerment and self-sufficiency in mind, and with gradual reduction in project inputs over time. Graduation does not refer to satisfaction of certain conditions, but to the general theory of change underpinning the capacity building approach and gradual weaning of project support.
On Thursday, March 10, 2016, AVSI organized a panel discussion entitled “Teacher Motivation and the Impact on Learning: Getting to the Heart of the Matter,” within the Comparative and International Education Society Conference (CIES2016) held in Vancouver, Canada.The panel featured presentations of three papers, each offering a different case study related to the topic.
Jackie Aldrette, Managing Director of AVSI-USA, moderated the session and set the stage by framing the question. “The vision we have is clear and shared: we want motivated, passionate and engaging teachers who have the commitment to deal with constraints and to reach all children and help them to learn and grow at their potential. How we go about achieving that is not so clear or straightforward,” posited Aldrette.
The issue of teacher motivation was front and center for this panel because the fundamental role of teachers in delivering quality education is indisputable, and teachers are needed for any changes to teaching practice that researchers and policy makers aim to implement.
Yet still, many communities and education systems struggle with issues of absenteeism, lack of innovation, burnout, turnover, and corporal punishment.
Recognizing that education is a complex endeavor and that teachers are shaped by a whole range of factors such as personal and academic background, salary and benefits, social norms, school conditions and resources, systemic factors, the discussion honed in on a narrow yet essential pivot: factors of intrinsic motivation of teachers to change and perform at potential.
Teacher as Educator: Case of Mexico
Rossana Stanchi, AVSI’s Country Representative in Mexico, described the two relatively young projects which AVSI Mexico is implementing with and for teachers in Mexico (2013-2017). Rossana described how the difficult educational environment in Mexico, and especially in states such as Oaxaca, has effectively paralyzed teachers. As a result, teachers have few options for meaningful professional development and little room for creativity and change. Through meetings with professors from the teacher colleges and teachers themselves, AVSI understood the need for a fresh approach to education. AVSI Mexico proposed a “new pedagogy” drawing on the principles of the Italian educator, Luigi Giussani. Together with the professors and teachers, AVSI Mexico designed a number of training courses, complete with practical exercises and tutors, that were accessible and relevant. What was new about these courses was the starting point: teachers were looked at holistically, as persons, and were invited to begin a process of self-reflection, while working together with others to probe fundamental questions around the meaning of education. Education was presented not only as a technical discipline with a curriculum and set of techniques that must be mastered, but as a dialogue and a journey which involves the teacher as a whole person. About 300 teachers have been trained to date through the two projects.
The projects have been evaluated using self-assessments done by the participants, as well as a review carried out by the donor consisting of consultations with stakeholders and participants. Results have shown a high level of enthusiasm, commitment and completion rates from participating teachers. The majority of teachers stated that their way of relating with students has changed. Other teachers reported a new found confidence and sense of freedom to be oneself and creative at school. Stakeholders from the teachers’ college gave the feedback that even in a short time, the teachers who had completed the courses were already having a positive impact on the school environment. Overall, Rossana concluded that the process—careful listening, sharing of experiences and building something together—was essential to the early success of the project. Rossana ended by summarizing, “In all the cases we have seen that it is essential to recuperate the value of the person in the spaces in which the work of education is carried out, where parents and teachers can grow within a sincere and profound dialogue, where they are helped to discover the human aspects of teaching and to appreciate the importance of relationships. This is the possibility that the joy of teaching and the joy of collaboration can emerge, making a common work possible.”
Teacher as Continual Learner: Case of Uganda
Mauro Giacomazzi, Executive Director of the Luigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education (LGIHE) in Kampala, Uganda, explained the approach to teacher professional development that LGIHE delivers in Uganda and elsewhere, as well as results from a recent impact study carried out with Notre Dame University. LGIHE began informally training teachers and social workers through its relationship with AVSI in 2003. Today, LGIHE is an institute for higher education recognized by the Ministry of Education and Sport and authorized in Uganda to deliver Certificates and Master’s degrees in addition to the core service which is a school-based teacher professional development course with two parts, Risk of Education and Educate while Teaching. Similar to the approach used by AVSI Mexico, Mauro described the importance of the first phase of the training as an opportunity to awaken the heart of the teacher to see and feel more clearly what they want to gain from their teaching career and from their life. The training touches upon the issue of how students learn, the role of affection in the learning process, and the importance of the teacher-student relationship. Only in the second phase of the course are techniques introduced and worked on in practical exercises.
Mauro shared the quasi-experimental evaluation approach which assessed the impact of the training on teachers’ attitudes and behaviors in 36 schools, divided between rural and urban schools and including a control group of schools which did not receive the training. Treatment schools received either a full package (two modules, teacher observation and coaching support) or a light package (one module). The data collection instruments used were teacher surveys, student surveys, observation reports, and qualitative tools including interviews and focus group discussions. Despite a short intervention period of only one year, statistically significant changes were detected on areas such as trust between student and teacher, teacher understanding of child development topics, and freedom of students to ask questions in class. The evaluation did not measure student learning outcomes, although Mauro explained that the second phase of the project which is on-going presently will tackle that question.
Teacher as Part of Learning Community, the Role of the Headmaster: USA Case
Jose Medina was Principal of Cristo Rey High School in Boston from 2006-2013, a school which serves exclusively low-income students who are not on track for college readiness. During his tenure at Cristo Rey, Jose set in motion a transformation of the school, engaging teachers in a deep reflective and collaborative process that considered all aspects of school life. At the end of those seven years, 100% of Cristo Rey graduates were consistently accepted to college. Jose spoke about a few disconnects which he saw clearly when he stepped up to the helm of the high school. First, teachers generally have a perception of their ability to positively influence their students’ learning (around 85% of the time) while at the same time having the perception that a relatively small group of students can actually learn according to the standards (35% of students). A second issue was that teachers, like people in all walks of life, demonstrate a “status quo bias” which is an emotional response to change which is often disconnected with the rational response. So, even when teachers agree on a change or new policy, this rational response does not very often translate into change of behavior in the classroom.
Jose briefly described a few aspects of the change process he guided at Cristo Rey which focused on the collection and use of relevant data concerning students’ perceptions of teachers and learning outcomes. It was necessary to introduce the data collection tools and analysis carefully so as not to create a backlash and negative reaction among teachers. Data was analyzed together, shared openly, and collected regularly. Jose shared how teachers slowly got behind the idea and began to grow, personally and professionally, using this new way of looking at reality and facing it together as a group. Jose concluded that inspiring greater motivation in teachers might not be a matter of new training methods, per se, but about creating a community of educators who have a common vision and shared dedication to personal and professional growth. For this, leadership of the principal is essential.
In conclusion, the audience agreed that the panelists had hit on an essential element within the panorama of quality education and the ambitious “learning for all” agenda: engaging teachers in a holistic way and not avoiding the profound questions of meaning and purpose is necessary to motivate teachers to work towards common goals and reach their potential. Three modalities of addressing the issue were presented, and both advances and continued gaps in evidence were discussed. While no magic bullet solution emerged, there was a sense of hopefulness that from the seeds being planted in each of the three cases, something beautiful can grow that can influence beyond the garden walls.
Read, watch, listen and share news and stories of our work, initiatives and more