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Innovation without borders

Posted July 4, 2012 in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Press Coverage

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Camfed staff are crossing continents to share lessons about the best way to inspire pupils in some of the world’s poorest communities.

Senior team members from Zambia and Zimbabwe travelled to Colombia this summer to observe an innovative education model that’s nurturing young leaders in Latin America and beyond.

Dorothy Kasanda, Deputy Executive Director of Camfed Zambia, and Lovemore Nechibvute, Head of Operations at Camfed Zimbabwe, saw first-hand how pupils in schools in Colombia are benefitting from the Escuela Nueva model, which encourages children to play a central role in their own education. Now the Camfed executives are bringing those lessons back to Camfed’s programmes in Africa.

The idea behind our study visit was to be able to understand exactly how the Escuela Nueva model addresses issues such as retention of students, drop out and children who are living in very poor communities, which are issues we face in our communities in Africa too,” explained Lovemore.

“It’s very different from the traditional model where the teacher stands at the front of the class. Children work at their own speed and they are not pushed. It acknowledges the difference in each child. It also acknowledges the different circumstances – if a child misses a day’s school, they don’t miss out on lessons because they can follow modules at their own pace.”

Camfed’s staff were invited on the study mission by the Founder and Director of the Escuela Nueva Foundation, Vicky Colbert – who, like Camfed’s Executive Director Ann Cotton, is a Skoll Foundation Social Entrepreneur. The Escuela Nueva programme was launched in Colombia 30 years ago and quickly became national policy there. Over the next few decades, the model was rolled out in 16 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, Uganda and the Philippines, reaching more than five million children.

Dorothy and Lovemore were particularly impressed by the model’s emphasis on student and family involvement in school management. Escuela Nueva cultivates students’ leadership skills by assigning responsibility to them for managing areas such as the school library, gardening and entertainment. Family life is an important consideration in developing the curriculum as well.

Children take a significant role in their own learning,” explained Lovemore. “The curriculum that is developed is based on what is happening in the children’s daily lives. For example, in Colombia, they are growing a lot of coffee – so there are modules about coffee. Children can go back home and ask their parents questions about coffee growing as part of their homework. So knowledge is passed on from generation to generation.”

Camfed Zambia’s Deputy Executive Director, Dorothy, added:

Because the children learn in groups, the model promotes social responsibility – a child lagging behind is assisted by those that are advanced. As facilitator the teacher has more time to devote to issues when individual pupils request assistance.”

Lovemore and Dorothy are now sharing the lessons they learned in Colombia with colleagues and decision-makers back home in Zambia and Zimbabwe – including Ministry of Education officials – so that children in Africa can benefit from some of the innovative ideas.

As part of Camfed’s commitment to improving the learning environment for children in some of the poorest communities in rural Africa, we make sure students and parents participate in school governance. We establish student councils at our partner schools so that children have a say in how their schools are run, and train parent groups to support the education of the most vulnerable children in their communities.

Camfed is delighted to be working in partnership with organisations such as the Escuela Nueva Foundation to share best practice and to develop models for learning that will transform the lives of children in poor communities around the world.

[Photo: Learning lessons from Colombia]