I sat with Daniel and Gibrilla Sesay after the session today, “Empowering Teachers, Empowering Youself”. Gibrilla works at the Ahmaddiya Secondary School, and is one of the outside representatives for the training (not working at Bumpeh Academy).
Before we’d started the training, Rashid, Daniel and I had agreed to allow 1-2 teachers from the other secondary schools in Rotifunk to attend, so that they could also share some of the information that we were disseminating with their colleagues.
It was a good discussion. Gibrilla said that the other teachers at Ahmaddiya were very fascinated by the information and techniques that he’d shared with them, and were hungry for more. Daniel and I both agreed that Gibrilla was certainly one of the individuals in the workshops who showed the abilities and interest to be trained into a trainer himself, so that he could share the information more widely and in-depth with his fellow Ahmaddiya teachers.
The feedback from the other two secondary schools was similar. Prosperity School wanted greater involvement with the project (though they did already have two representatives), and the Walter Schutz School realized they’d made a mistake when the teacher who was picked by their principal failed to show on the first two days and ultimately dropped out of the workshop without ever turning up. Two of our Bumpeh Academy teachers were also part-time staff at Walter Schutz, and they were sharing the info with other staff members.
Daniel and Gibrilla started talking about the need to spread and share the information with other schools in and around Rotifunk, and not just secondary schools. How to help other schools organize, some of the necessary factors in getting an additional program going for training workshops, fine-tuning some of the material, and what might be needed. I sat and listened to them talk back and forth about the hypothetical logistics and management of another, more-widely disseminated training. I sat quietly and listened, but inside I was leaping for joy listening to them plan it out.
My greatest hope from the trainings (one that I didn’t share with either Rashid or Daniel), was that the teachers would recognize- or even just Rashid and Daniel- that there was great potential in taking our small project and expanding its scope to incorporate a variety of schools, secondary or primary. Perhaps across all of Rotifunk, or with greater organization, perhaps across all of Bumpeh Chiefdom. I’ve noticed that the two of them see that possibility.
I also hope that the teachers will see the value in mastering the new techniques and find interest in the possibility of taking on a role as a trainer to be a guide and expert for their colleagues.
Rashid, Daniel and I had a good talk about our long term BADP goals. They both recognize that beyond the immediate needs of the school, there is potential for long term growth of BADP if we can focus on a couple of key factors. I’ve stressed time and time again that the more we look at long-term potential, the more we must consider local solutions for problems, and minimize the dependency on foreign solutions.
I’ve reminded them that the solutions for problems that they’ve been dealing with, like Rotifunk-based carpenters and tradesmen for structural projects, is the most sustainable route for the future, and even if we do have chances to grow as an organization, many, if not all, of the principles of local-sourcing must remain.
There are already large, American-based non-profits that are building schools across Sierra Leone, but I’ve heard that they’re often built and managed unsustainably, and sometimes turn into crumbling edifices.
I’ve pushed for us to be very mindful and accountable in our methods for this reason. Monitoring and Evaluation is absolutely essential to any sort of project work, and we’re careful to keep track of what we do, how we do it, what went right, what could be better.
Sometimes it’s difficult to get across the idea of full-sustainability to locals in-country, as people like to to defer to a foreigner for decision-making, or the resources that they are able to bring in from more wealthy or developed countries. Also because of the seemingly counter-intuitive idea that sustainability does logically mean that foreign investment must have an end date.
A mantle that can only be taken on by increased local productivity, and therein, creating sustainability. In the case of Rashid, Daniel, and myself, there’s a strong agreement on furthering these principles.
It was a good discussion for us to have. We’ve had two very successful weeks together, and I told them both that there’s no reason we shouldn’t dream big: that people will take notice of what we’ve done together in Rotifunk by setting up an independent and forward-thinking training program, while also giving me an opportunity to take photos of continual structural improvements of the school over the past two weeks.
It was also good for us to keep perspective and remember that we have some way to go before we can get to wide-ranging goals or non school-based goals. And we must observe and respect all necessary steps along the way.
Rashid had his third and final session today, talking about Girl’s Education and Student Rights. One of the successes of the trainings has been the teachers’ ability to draw cross-topic conclusions. I stressed in one of our first sessions the need to always, and whenever possible, draw comparisons across subjects and associate facts and ideas with each other to help strengthen student understanding.
So when a teacher excitedly stands up in Session 10 about Girl’s Education and talks about the lack of in-class support for girls citing “fixed mindsets” (Session 5), I can’t help but get a little excited.