5 ways MCC is improving education

Report
from Mennonite Central Committee
Published on 14 Sep 2017

By Rachel Bergen

Sept. 14, 2017

MCC is known for supporting access to education around the globe by paying school fees, supporting vocational training and providing school supplies. What you might not know is that MCC also works with its partners to improve the quality of education that is offered.

From teacher training to involving the community in school management, here are some examples of partners creatively improving education:

Teacher training

Professional development for teachers is one way MCC helps improve education quality. It’s important that the training MCC supports keeps power in the hands of teachers and community members because improvement looks different in each context.

In March 2016, Learning Ways, an MCC-supported project in Kenya, coordinated an EdCamp – a teacher-driven, crowd-sourced training with teachers from five schools.

The participants voted on more than 20 proposed topics to determine which were most relevant to discuss. The topics they chose included techniques to help slow learners, classroom management, student stress management, nonviolent discipline and teaching English and Swahili.

MCC has promoted EdCamps elsewhere, to emphasize the idea that teachers have valuable knowledge to share with each other. This empowers teachers to see themselves as professional educators rather than thinking expertise can only come from outside sources. It also allows them to experience participatory learning themselves, which helps them be willing to try this approach with their own students.

School management committees

Parent-teacher associations and school boards might seem normal to many, but in some parts of the world, families don’t have a voice in their children’s education.

MCC is working to change that by encouraging the creation of school management committees. These committees help improve education quality, represent different people involved in schools, broaden decision-making power and improve accountability.

“When you get parents involved in shaping the school, the likelihood of the children’s education being more relevant increases,” said Lynn Longenecker, MCC’s education coordinator. “You help the education become more connected to life in the community.”

Manu Thapa, who has two children who attend Janajagriti Higher Secondary School in Nepal, is a member of the school’s management committee. She’s committed to making the school better.

“I’m newly elected on this committee, and by the time my term is over I want to feel like something has improved at this school, like something has changed. I want this school to be a model for other schools,” she says.

MCC also supports school management committees in Zimbabwe, Laos, Zambia, Cambodia and Kenya. Support could include providing training, involving committees in how MCC funds are spent at the school and facilitating exchanges with other committees.

Model school

MCC’s partner Tomorrow’s Foundation has been operating a successful model school in Kolkata India, for six years. Now the school also will become a resource center for 17 under-functioning government schools in the city, through an agreement between the foundation and Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

At the model school, the teachers prioritize active learning, group projects and creative, child-focused, practical education. The administrators and teachers worked together to develop curriculum materials and a child protection strategy. They also have appointed community mobilizers, who work to establish and strengthen school management committees, visit students’ homes and increase parent involvement.

In the spring of 2017, Tomorrow’s Foundation began sending one highly trained teacher, called a “para teacher,” from the model school to each of the government primary schools to train the teachers. To prepare para teachers for their role, they participated in training sessions led by Tomorrow’s Foundation.

Broadened curriculum

Sometimes reading, writing and math are just the beginning of an education. Most of the students who attend Ruchunda Primary School in the South Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have been displaced by war. So MCC-supported schools are implementing peace clubs too.

Facilitated through MCC’s partner Church of Christ of Congo (ECC-MERU), peace clubs teach students how to resolve conflicts without violence. Peace club facilitators also learn about child protection, conflict resolution and informal counseling.

Peace Club, an MCC partner, was originally established by Issa Ebombolo in Zambia, but its curriculum is now in 650 schools in 14 African countries. MCC’s partners in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Palestine, Colombia and Nicaragua use are other forms of peace education in their education programming.

Trauma-informed education

When children have been traumatized by war, they can have difficulty learning.

That’s certainly the case in Syria where violence has torn the country apart and displaced millions over the last five years.

In this context, the Syrian Orthodox Church, an MCC partner, is providing trauma-informed education for children still living in the country, to ensure that students feel safe and supported in school. They also provide training to help teachers understand how trauma affects children’s behavior, emotions and learning.

Mennonite Central Committee: Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ

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Rachel Bergen is a writer for MCC.