It is 8:00 a.m at the Bumpeta Primary School in the territory of Idjwi, South Kivu province, in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In a very basic classroom equipped only with a blackboard and some twenty wooden desks, about forty primary school teachers and school principals are keen to learn a new approach on how to teach reading/writing, mathematics and everyday life skills. The goal is to improve the low level of learning standards which has been evident in the last few years in the DRC.
“This is the first time that I attended a training session on the reform of primary school teaching. I had no idea you could teach the alphabet to primary students. This is of great value to our careers and for improving student learning“, acknowledged Furaha Bashekage, primary school teacher since 2010.
According to an EPSP (Ministry of Education) study conducted in 2010, 26% of Grade 2 students and 51% of those in Grade 5 had learning difficulties in the DRC. After spending six years in primary school, only 47% of Congolese children are literate. The deficiencies observed at the beginning of the primary school cycle tend to persist throughout the entire school years.
A partnership to improve the quality of primary school teaching
This training session was set-up by the South Kivu Provincial Division of the Enseignement primaire, secondaire et professionnelle (EPSP), with UNICEF funding and technical support, to enhance the skills of professional teachers on the preparation of lesson plans and student evaluations that improve learning outcomes.
“This training is part of the new approach to a literate classroom environment in which all letters and numbers are posted on the four walls of a classroom. This way, reading and writing, which were two separate subjects will now be taught together and will make up a subject on its own “, said Léon Musagi of the South Kivu EPSP.
Local solutions to teacher training
Unlike previous years when teachers had to travel long distances to attend training events in the main provincial centres, the EPSP, in agreement with the teachers, decided this year to provide training nearer the communities. As a result, teacher training was provided on 12 sites where each has 15 primary schools.
This approach has led to reduced travel and accommodation costs, and most of all, to a greater number of teachers being able to obtain training.
The South Kivu EPSP was able to provide training to about 700 teachers and principals on the three modules of the new program with the same amount of money which, until now, covered the training of only half of these teachers.
“Improving the quality of teaching is one the three priorities of the strategic education plan for 2016-2025 in the DRC. UNICEF will continue to support the efforts of partners and local communities in order to find innovative solutions to train a large number of teachers at reduced cost“, underscored Thierry Dentice, Head of UNICEF for the Eastern Zone of the DRC.
More info about education in DRC:
- Education in DRC: 20 key figures
- Education in Nord-Kivu: the hope for a better future
- Children’s access to education under threat from ongoing violence in Kasai region
Translated from French by Marguerite McMillan
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