|AVSI Workshop in Nairobi Focuses on Quality Education in Africa|
Seeking to document experience and throw light on working pathways to ensure quality education, AVSI coordinated with the Permanent Center for Education (PCE) of Kampala, Uganda, to organize the workshop “Education as Introduction to Reality: Experiences of AVSI Network” in Nairobi, Kenya, from January 21-23. The three days brought together over 60 key staff members and partners from 12 African countries where AVSI operates (Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Southern Sudan, Ivory Coast) as well as from Haiti, the U.S. and Italy.
The dynamic meeting featured case studies and open discussion sessions to pose key challenges and offer solutions to questions encountered on the ground within AVSI projects including: vocational training, education in fragile and conflict-affected states, school management and systems, early childhood education and the organization of educational services in larger integrated programs for vulnerable households. Besides promoting exchanges to face daily challenges, the conference also invited education project managers to use new ways of collecting and using data to verify the effectiveness of the work done.
Whether from a primary school teacher in Nigeria or a university administrator in South Sudan, AVSI’s unique approach to education was the clear common thread in the comments of the participants. This method emphasizes the essential role of adults—primarily parents, but including teachers and all caregivers—in opening the heart and the mind of each single student and in accompanying them in the discovery of oneself and of reality.
Also, continued education is not only for students, but begins first in helping these adults grow ever stronger in their responsibility and awareness. Consequently, during the AVSI workshop in facing questions of teacher and student retention, or the divide between emergency response versus a long-term approach in conflict areas such as in Democratic Republic of Congo, systems were discussed, but many staff members affirmed that the key is the person helped to awaken his/her own interest in life and motivation to work. We heard surprising examples of teachers staying on at a school or staff remaining in the most difficult contexts because of this positive environment, even though they could be paid more elsewhere.
An important guest for the conference was Arnaldo Nhavoto, Director of UNESCO – IICBA (International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa), who helped to understand how AVSI’s activities fit into the global discussion on education, and indicated what he sees as key questions to face challenges. “Africa has a huge amount of resources, but the first and foremost is the human capital,” Nhavoto said, during a discussion on youth employment and vocational training. “Technical skills change very quickly, so it is difficult to provide updated technical skills. What is crucial is basic education: it allows children and young people to learn and adapt themselves to any changing context.”