Friday, 13 December 2013

Service to the Nation: Musah Alhassan

School for Life is currently running a trial to use National Service Personnel to lead our community based classes.  Classes led by community members (known as facilitators) have been a core component of School for Life’s values since inception, but as our program expands we are seeking to trial some innovative measures to ensure all out of school children in Ghana can achieve their potential though education.

A couple of months ago, twelve National Service Personnel, all of whom are recent graduates of education programmes at universities in Ghana were posted to our organisation.  After undergoing training with our volunteer facilitators they were posted to communities across the Savelugu Nanton district in the Northern Region.  This morning we met with them to hear about their experiences so far, and some of the challenges they are facing. 

A lot of challenges were raised by the group, as well as some successes.  One of the most successful experiences to date was shared with us by Musah Alhassan, about his posting in the Chahiyili community.  Musah, a recent Diploma of Education Graduate from the University of Winneba, moved into the Chahiyilli community soon after his posting.  In just a few months, he has established himself as an important and respected member of the community there.  In addition to taking the School for Life classes in the afternoons, he spends his mornings volunteering as a teacher at the nearby formal school.

He was honest about the challenges he had faced, but also positive about the experience.  He told the group that if he hadn’t lived in the community he would never have understood all the reasons why the learners he teaches struggle to go to school.  He gave us one example of a girl child who was regularly missing classes.  He eventually went to see her mother, who explained that she was discouraging her from attending as she needed the girl to help take care of baby due to be born in a few months’ time, and also feared she would not be able to afford the school fees should the child wish to continue her education after the programme.  Musah was able to convince the mother to let the girl attend, and promised to help her apply for a scholarship when the time to attend formal school came.

When congratulating Musah for his hard work after our meeting, he surprised us when he explained the source of his passion for his work.  Having grown up in a community without a school, Musah did not expect to benefit from education.  From a young age, he helped to support his family by taking care of animals.  However, in 1998, he joined a School for Life class in his community!  Musah remembers that the classes back then were not like they are today – his class was held during the night, because at the time there were so few teachers available to teach in his mother tongue, Dagbani, that they had to travel from far away after they had taught elsewhere.

Following the nine months of the School for Life Programme, Musah integrated into the formal school at Gushigu, where he continued on to Junior High School.  After this, he went to Tamale Polytechnic to study welding and fabrication.  However, Musah’s passion for education led him to dream of purusing future studies in education and to become a teacher.  He told me “Because I came from School for Life, I put my efforts into my work in the community.  I want my brothers to benefit from it.  I want to inform the image (for my learners), and shown them that I was able to attend future educational institutions because of the opportunity School for Life gave to me.”
By Courtney Irwin

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

School for Life/Tzedek Education Quality Initiative Project (EQUIP)

By Abdulai Imoro, EQUIP Project Coordinator, School for Life

 The EQUIP Programme seeks to improve the quality of education in selected schools in Northern Region.  The program is aimed at improving learning outcomes in schools; cultivating reading habits in children; promoting independent learning; and building confidence in teachers though the following interventions:

·       Training of selected teachers in learner- centered, mother – tongue, gender sensitive teaching, and the creation of teaching and learning materials from local sources and teaching of reading and writing skills

·       Training of head teachers in aspects of school management

·       Training of Ghana Education Service school supervisors to perform their roles more effectively

·       Provision of materials of various sorts to the schools to promote the culture of reading among children

·       Conducting competitions and assessments to test performance and achievements

·       Organize orientation workshop for SMC/PTA Executive members on their roles

The project seeks to integrate solutions to the inhibitors and shortcomings that prevent the achievement of quality education in rural primary schools, building on solutions that have been tried and proven but have not been previously brought together in a single programme. In order for EQUIP to be able to give the treatment above to beneficiary schools, the following strategies are used:

·       Phonic/syllabic approach

·       Use of games to teach both Literacy and Numeracy

·       Child- centered approach

·       Word problems to teach numeracy

·       Use of songs and rhymes in teaching both Literacy and Numeracy

·       Use of relevant teaching and learning materials to explain basic concepts.

The School for Life/Tzedek EQUIP programme started as a pilot project in Saboba and Cheriponi Districts. During the pilot, Ten schools were chosen as EQUIP schools in each of the pilot Districts. After the pilot, the project extended its coverage to include two new districts; i.e. Savelugu District and Kumbungu District were added to the beneficiary districts of EQUIP.

Whiles the project extended its coverage by adding more districts, it increased the number of beneficiary schools in each of the existing districts. Thus, the number of beneficiary schools was increased from ten during the pilot to twenty new schools, in the existing districts. In all, twenty new schools were added in each of Saboba and Cheriponi districts when it extended its coverage to new districts. 

EQUIP is a Comic Relief funded project which seeks to complement the efforts of the Government in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service (GES), School for Life, and the Cheriponi, Saboba, Savelugu and Kumbungu District Assemblies.  The key stakeholders/partners of EQUIP include; The Ghana Education Directorates of beneficiary districts, District Assemblies of Beneficiary districts, heads of schools, SMC/PTA, teachers as well as pupils.  Whiles the above institutions/personalities are partnering, School for Life is an Implementing partner of Tzedek, which initiates policies/programs with partners and implements the projects on the ground.

The School for Life/Tzedek EQUIP is implemented by Project Staff made up of four (4) District Coordinators, a Project Coordinator and Project Manager. All district coordinators report to the Project Coordinator who in turn reports to the Project Manager. The Management of School for Life, exercises oversight responsibility over all EQUIP project staff.

In order to determine the success of the programme, baseline, mid-line and end-line studies will be conducted, which will include comparisons to other approaches; e.g. teacher training, learning outcomes by learners in a control group which receives no quality education strategies.  Within these approaches, several elements will be tested. There will be six elements including;

·       Pupils’ phonic knowledge

·       Pupils’ alphabetic knowledge

·       Pupils ability to read simple text

·       Pupils’ ability to read and comprehend

·       Pupils ability to recognize numbers

·       Pupils’ ability to do simple calculations

Results of these evaluations will be incorporated into future programme development efforts.
Teachers participating in teacher training sessions
Teacher delivers findings from group discussions to the class

Group work encourages participation

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Savelugu-Nanton District Coordinator Ibrahim “Kung Fu” Issahaku drags his motorbike out of the mud on the road to the Sana community.  Despite the challenges of travel in the rainy season, over the coming weeks Kung Fu will visit around 1000 children across the district to find out if they were able to enrol in former schools following the nine month School for Life Programme.  

Monday, 16 September 2013

School for Life Receives a “Northern Business Excellence Award’’

By Muniru A. Rahaman
17th August 2013
SfL was given an award as one of the Organisations which are contributing to the development of Ghana and Northern Ghana in particular in various areas of endeavour. The citation on the award recognises SfL for it’s “...commitment and Dedication to improving access to Quality Basic Education in Ghana”.

The awards ceremony was organised by Ridmut Consult in collaboration with Savana Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), Northern Regional Coordinating Council, the Northern Development Forum (NDF) and other industry partners. This program was designed to honour private, public and non-profit sectors including individuals for their contributions towards the development of Northern Ghana.  A day prior to the awards ceremony, the PM was invited by the same organisation to make a presentation at a young Entrepreneurs Development Seminars. There were other presenters at the seminar. The PM’s presentation was entitled “Contribution of School for Life to Growing the Youth”.

The award to SfL was received by the Programme Manager. The Picture of the presentation is seen below. 

Top Left: Programme Manager (S. O. Saaka) receiving the Award.

Top Right: A picture of the Award.

School for Life offers CBE Certificate to kids in Savelugu-Nanton District

Check out our news article on 107.1 Kesmi FM:

School for Life offers CBE Certificate to kids in Savelugu-Nanton District

EQUIP-ing Schools for Quality Education

By Courtney Irwin

22nd April 2012

UK based charity Tzedek has joined with School for Life to develop a new program aimed at improving the quality of education in Northern Ghana.

Tzedek is the Jewish community’s international development charity.  Having worked in Northern Ghana for a number of years, the organisation has sought to deepen their ties with the region, and to develop innovative solutions aimed at eliminating poverty in the country.

EQUIP is a recent program developed in collaboration with School for Life (SfL).  The project aims to improve the quality of education in schools in Northern Ghana through training of education stakeholders in child centred methodologies, and through the provision of teaching and learning materials including classroom charts, flash cards, and textbooks. 

The program was devised in response to an extensive year long investigation into the causes of poverty in Northern Ghana, which identified quality education as a major barrier to improvements in the country.  School for Life became involved in the initiative when Tzedek sought to engage local organisations with specialities in education and designed a pilot project which Tzedek agreed to fund.

The EQUIP program has just completed this one year pilot, focusing on twenty schools in the Saboba and Chereponi districts.  District Teacher Support Team trainers, from Ghana Education Services, responsible for delivering in-service training to school teachers, were engaged by EQUIP to deliver the program to P1 and P3 teachers in formal schools.  The schools were then provided with training and learning materials to support the use of the methods in the classroom.  In addition to this, training was provided to Head teachers, Circuit Supervisors, School Management Committees, and Parent Teacher Associations to raise awareness and support for the program, and to promote understanding of roles and responsibilities. 

Recently, staff members from Tzedek head office in London, Hirsh Cashdan and Umo Young were in the country to evaluate the pilot and to develop plans to extend the program.  The evaluation showed that the pilot has delivered impressive results to date.  Interviews and focus groups conducted have revealed that all the stakeholders involved are in agreement about the success of the program.  Parents and teachers continually note that their children are learning better, faster, and demonstrating greater capability.  Teachers are teaching better, and the supervision has improved.  Head Masters say the program has improved the management of schools.  Children themselves can see the benefits of the teaching and learning materials and say it helps them to understand easier.  “We can see it with our eyes” say the children “we can touch and practise with the materials”.  In addition to this, they note that they learn faster now that they are encouraged to ask questions in class.  Tests were conducted earlier in the pilot in 10 of the participant schools and 4 control schools in literacy and numeracy and the same tests conducted at the end of the pilot showed that the participant school children had, on average, gained 8 percentage points more than the equivalent control school children

Tzedek staff commented that one of the surprising findings of the evaluation was the effectiveness of a quiz competition organised between schools who had received the intervention.  Individuals selected by the school competed against each other in reading, spelling and the identification of images.  School champions then competed against other schools at the district level.  The teachers reported that the quiz competition had been very effective in engaging students, and that selection to participate in the quiz had been a motivating factor in improved classroom participation.

Plans are now in place to scale up the program over the next three years.  An additional nine districts and over 400 schools will be added to the program during this time, beginning with Tolon, Savelugo and Kumbungu districts.  The program will also be extended to train P2 teachers.  The full implementation will be funded by Tzedek supported itself by a large grant from UK based charity, Comic Relief.

The SfL EQUIP Team(from left to right): Bishe Jospeh Ubakoni (District Coordinator), Abukari Kadiri (District Coordinator), Yakambu Muniru Kalamba (District Coordinator), Umo Young (Tzedek Staff), Karimu A Mohammed (SfL Project Manager), Suleman Osman Saaka (SfL Programme Manager), Hirsg Cashdan (Tzedek Staff)

Sending the Teachers Back to School

2nd April, 2013

By Courtney Irwin

For four days last week, School for Life extended their usual role, educating children, to the education of their teachers.  A workshop, held in Savelugu, 20km from Tamale, sought to train 60 teachers from formal schools in the district, in the use of School for Life’s methodology, in the hope that they will adopt these practices in their own classrooms.

School for Life promotes the use of mother tongue literacy, learning aids and active participation within the classroom through engagement between students and teachers.  These approaches are used within School for Life’s own program to deliver complementary basic education for out-of-school children in Northern Ghana.  Through a nine month functional literacy and numeracy program facilitated by community volunteers, School for Life graduates are able to enter formal school between grades three to six.  UNICEF has supported the program in the Savelugu Naton district for two years, and is currently operating School for Life classes in 30 communities.  Deputy Director of Operations, Alhaji Hussein Abdulai Ziblim, promoted the approach, saying that “Children learn better in their mother tongue.  We have tested this for more than 19 years now.”

The workshop itself utilized many of the techniques that School for Life promotes, relying heavily on participation and group work.  “Children learn more in groups.  They learn from each other, and we are trying to impart this to them” explain School for Life District Coordinator Ibrahim Issahaku.

In addition to the teachers, nine circuit supervisors from Ghana Education Service were in attendance, with the aim of supporting the teachers to implement the methodology.  They were particularly happy with the success of the program “The participants have been very keen.  The facilitators are up to the task” they said “Now all that is left is for the participants to implement this, and we will definitely do that!”