BT Fellows: Empowering Head Teachers as Changemakers
December 30, 2013
In 2011, Uwezo-Uganda collected data indicating the percentage of P3-P7 students competent in English, Math, and both. On average, in districts where BT is active, less than 42 percent were competent in English, 58 percent in Math and 34 percent in both.
In our own experience, it goes without saying that rural public educationâ€”both access to and the quality ofâ€”remains one of the biggest challenges facing the post-2015 international development agenda. The flow of education-related capital, human resources, training and oversight to rural communities lags far behind the curve, and even further behind where it needs to be.
Rural teachers are isolated, without easy access to a network of peers and professional development. School Management Committees (SMCs) are ill-equipped to effectively carry out their responsibilities. Local government officers are severely limited in their time and resources to monitor progress. And, perhaps most importantly, parents see little value in investing in a system that is failing their children. Left unaltered, such schools face an uphill battle.
The good news is we have seen that when a head teacher is empowered to lead and take personal responsibility for their school, they can and do have a significant positive impact on each and every one of these trends.
In light of this, we believe the best opportunity for ensuring the long-term success of any school lies in building the capacity of its leadership. And beginning in 2014, we will be convening a newly-hired team to fully develop a fellowship program to do just that.
With guidance from a multitude of partners, this team will be working to develop a curriculum that will take graduates of Ugandan colleges and universities and equip them to be changemakers in hard-to-reach schools, with the potential to dramatically scale the delivery of a quality education across Uganda.
Set to launch in the fall of 2014, the program is being modeled after the success of the Kaivalya Education Foundationâ€™s (KEF) Gandhi Fellows and subsequent Principal Leadership Development Program (PLDP), based in India and led by a fellow Echoing Green Alumnus. Gandhi Fellows work with principals/head teachers to develop their skillsâ€” through the PLDPâ€”in four distinct areas: personal, instructional, organizational and social leadership. At its core, the program envisions that if trained well, school leaders can be at the heart of qualitative change within government schools.
BT currently has in place a successful system of managing the physical construction of its academies with direct-support from a network of trained Community Development Officers (CDOs), overseen by a Program Manager, Engineer in Residence and Logistics Officer. Each CDO is matched and posted to a particular community throughout the construction process.
Similarly, at BT academies, the BT Fellows program will mirror the CDOs direct support, following the schoolâ€™s official opening. At rural, public, non-BT affiliated schools, BT Fellows will serve as a vital resource for school leadership.
Supported by dedicated program staff and a network of in-country partners (including teacher-trainers), BT Fellows, placed regionally, will work directly with head teachers at three primary schools to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of education delivery in rural areas. Day-to-day, Fellows will provide face-to-face leadership development training, skills and knowledge transfer, and the tools and guidance to more effectively collect data, monitor, analyze and report on each academy.
Fellows will encourage and motivate an academyâ€™s leadership to empower the community to continually embrace the school. They will challenge local perceptions of education; encourage teachers – by way of the head teachers – to think-outside-the-box, adapt, and creatively problem solve; and will work tirelessly to support the development of a quality learning environment.
At the end of this week, a small cohort of friends and long-time supporters of Building Tomorrow will be headed across the pond for our first-ever board meeting in Uganda. And immediately following, we will be convening our Fellows program team in our Kampala offices to hit the ground running. Needless to say, we’re excited to ring in the new year and can’t wait to get started.
But first – a thank you. We never would have gotten this far without you and are immensely grateful for your support, encouragement, and trust as we navigate the challenges of delivering a high-quality education to hard-to-reach communities across Uganda. It’s been an incredible learning process these past seven years and, with time still left to make a tax-deductible year-end gift, we look forward to having you along for the ride for the next seven.
Happy New Year. Here’s to 2014.