Dreams take patience. Last month, we realized the first step toward our big dream of seeing more inclusive and gender responsive classrooms as the norm in Africa.
Our Africa Regional Coordinator, Veronica Thamaini shared, “Growing up in a family of teachers, I saw and experienced the value of the teacher in the community. The teacher's word was everything in and out of the classroom. What kids learned in school, they took home, be it a science, agriculture or a literature project, and this helped improve their homes and standard of living. As students, they also brought their homes and their issues to the teacher and into the classroom. Teachers shape our lives and those of future generations.”
Creative Action Institute was contracted by UNESCO, UNICEF and the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) to substantially revise FAWE’s Gender Responsive Pedagogy (GRP) Toolkit. The Toolkit guides teachers in creating inclusive, learner-centered classrooms so that students of all genders have an equal opportunity to learn in the classroom. We are happy to report that the toolkit is now officially finalized and in circulation! One of the strategies to support teachers in integrating these approaches in the classroom is to ensure that this is a standard course in teacher training colleges across the continent. And for that to happen, we need to train the Teacher Trainers!
During the five-day Training of Teacher Trainers in Malawi last month, Creative Action Institute worked with 40 educators from teacher training colleges, representatives from Ministries of Education, actual Ministers themselves, and representatives of FAWE chapters from 10 countries across Africa. We strengthened the role of the teacher as a critical stakeholder in the achievement of gender equality. At the core of the training, we shared creative tools, strategies, best practices and skills that allow teachers to create an environment where all students, of all genders, have an equal opportunity to learn.
During the training, Creative Action Institute guided participants through several interactive, learner-based methods that were new additions to the toolkit. It was wonderful to see the rich and multi-cultural talent in the room, stepping out of their comfort zones and trying new approaches to teaching that draw on creative methodologies such as theater, dance, song and visual arts to deconstruct problems, foster critical reflection and draw out the voices and abilities of all learners.
The training was packed!
- We grounded the training in the human-rights framework and the values of inclusion, respect, cooperation and respect for diversity.
- We delved into multiple intelligence theory, eliciting an impressive list of teaching ideas that access all of our intelligences – from kinesthetic to visual-spatial to intrapersonal.
- We explored gender-bias in the classroom, language use, and classroom management techniques that are inclusive and supportive.
- We discussed barriers for schools in supporting sexual and reproductive health and rights and strategized solutions.
- We took time to remember the importance of fostering emotional intelligence.
- We learned methods to support trauma-informed teaching practices that help teachers support their students.
- We looked at stakeholder engagement and how to integrate strong monitoring and evaluation tools to ensure schools are meeting the criteria for GRP.
- And finally, the participants themselves stepped into the role of facilitators, testing their knowledge and understanding of the processes.
Despite this ambitious agenda, there was great energy in the room, with participants receptive to the new methods, and dedicated to ensuring that the GRP is brought into teacher training from the very beginning. Clare shared, “One person from Ghana told me afterward, ‘When I looked at the agenda, I was sure I’d fall asleep during the long days. But each day would go quickly and I’d look up and find the day was over and I’d been engaged throughout. The learning-centered methodology really works!’”
Daphne Nawa, an inspiring leader from FAWE Zambia, used her transcendent voice to close our time together, singing in each country to join the dance circle. The participants dispersed with their action plans in hand, and we now set our sights on rolling out more trainings and coaching in each country!