By Ana Isabel Laguarda
Primary Education Assistant Coordinator
Kajo Keji, JRS Southern Sudan
(Kajo Keji, Southern Sudan) February 8, 2011 – Using the results of an external evaluation of Jesuit Refugee Service activities in Kajo Keji last October, JRS has changed its approach to ensure quality education in 2011.
The external evaluators noted several problems in the local school system, which JRS can address through a different approach. These include poor management by head teachers, frequent absence of teachers and a general lack of focused instruction and learning in core academic subjects.
Previously the JRS team had addressed these issues largely through meetings and training sessions with head teachers, supervisory visits and teacher training workshops. However, this approach was too broad in focus for too small a team, according to the evaluators. Instead, they suggested a new approach, which combines better partnership with county officials and more focused support to some teachers.
Working with the country officials
"Based on the results of the evaluation, the JRS primary education team has refocused its efforts and is now working more closely with the county education office," said Londo Edward Eliason, JRS Primary Education Coordinator in Kajo Keji, Southern Sudan. "We believe this will help promote quality education for the children in this county," he added.
Following the discussion of the evaluation results, JRS and the country officials identified priorities for 2011, such as offering better support for head teachers at the county level, curbing the frequent absence of teachers and creating better learning environments through managing the class size, using learning aids and including incidental learning tools.
JRS staff will regularly team up with sub-county inspectors to visit and supervise schools. During these visits, the focus will be specifically on classroom instruction and subsequent learning, rather than on managerial issues or compound maintenance. Inspecting teams will look at the use of learning materials and at whether students are making progress in their knowledge of the curriculum.
"Learning should be the focus of our work," said Mr. Edward at a recent meeting to which the acting county education director, Moses Kopurot Kenyi, had invited head teachers from across the county. "We are going to work very hard this year to ensure our students learn," said Mr. Kopurot during the meeting.
Reducing the frequent absence of teachers
The frequent absence of teachers is one of the main problems in Kajo Keji’s primary schools and reasons for this phenomenon vary. "Teachers feel powerless, they don’t get paid regularly, they get transferred randomly, they are rarely consulted. They are not enjoying their work because they are not confident and thus do not teach well and do not get positive feedback from the class. In many cases teachers are the only source of information for the class, yet they themselves are weak in knowledge. They do not see a career ahead of them," says the evaluation report.
With the support of JRS, the county has now introduced an incentive plan, wherein teachers who are absent without prior permission will lose a percentage of their pay for that day. The money will be given to the school instead, to be used for payment of volunteer teachers or those who helped while the teacher was absent.
In addition, JRS will give more direct support to teachers. Head teachers will receive particular support in skills such as budgeting and working with parent teacher associations while classroom teachers will get more support regarding student learning. In practice, this means school visits will be longer and more frequent and inspectors will look at both teachers’ plans and pupils’ notes to ensure that no child is being left behind. Feedback about the visits will be shared at the county level, to ensure that the difficulties noted will be followed up.
"We hope that by implementing this new approach, Kajo Keji County will be better able to meet the learning needs of the students," said Mr. Edward.
JRS has been present in Kajo Keji since 2001 and will continue to provide support to 26 primary schools, providing materials and offering guidance to teachers and head teachers on schemes of work, budgeting, and school management. Members of the JRS primary education team visit the schools each term and attend parent teacher association and school management committee meetings at each of the supported schools. Activities have been funded by Inditex and Caritas Germany.
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