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DRC School Leaders are improving school culture & inclusion to empower learners - Two success stories

By CATALYZE EduFinance DRC

The USAID CATALYZE EduFinance DRC program increases access to and quality of education for children in rural and urban areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The program partners with low-fee non-state school owners who are already working tirelessly to educate children in their community by supporting them with linkages to capital to invest in their schools, and delivering professional development training to run a quality, sustainable school.

Through CATALYZE EduFinance DRC, school partners such as Learning Academy* and Excellence Primary* are actively working to apply what they are learning and developing the quality of education being delivered. The EduFinance DRC program has enabled them to collaborate and share ideas with peer schools, take part in School Leadership Professional Development workshops and write annual School Development Plans. Read how both schools are incorporating these learnings and implementing a range of changes to positively impact the educational journeys of their learners.

LEARNING ACADEMY

Modeling success for girls, school owner Ms. Désiré Bayongwa is an inspiring educator, leader, and community employer who is now collaborating with peer schools through the EduFinance DRC program.

Ms. Désiré realized she wanted to be a school owner while attending her higher education in integrated development. She decided to write her dissertation on the importance of quality non-state education to development in the local community. Her presentation was received exceptionally well, and soon after, the Ministry decided to allocate funding to open her school – Learning Academy*.

Using land that belonged to her, Ms. Désiré started building classrooms in 2010 and officially opened the doors to the school in July 2012. The school started with two pre-primary, three primary, and two secondary classes, 157 learners, and 14 teachers. A decade later, she has employed almost 100 staff members, creating valuable job opportunities in her community as well as expanding the quality of education that the students are receiving.

Today Learning Academy has over 1,660 learners - 10 times more than on its opening day! A key driver for her success in that the school is local to the community.

Being close to both the families and teachers makes the school easily accessible, an indicator of success that she says is often overlooked.

Ms. Désiré reflects on how she had a strong desire to join the EduQuality program of EduFinance DRC, considering her experience as a member of the Bagira School Cluster, created through the program. Cluster meetings have made her feel as though her entire community can become a family, rather than seeing other non-state schools as competitors. To her, this demonstrates that sharing experiences has been vital to creating a social framework of inclusion.

IMPLEMENTING LEARNINGS TO IMPROVE SCHOOL CULTURE

This experience in her new cluster has directly inspired the School Development Plan for the year. Now recognizing the value of both extracurricular activities for learner development, as well as peer school collaboration: 

  • Saturday teaching has been replaced with a bi-weekly recreation day.
  • The recreational center has become a place for collaboration with surrounding schools by hosting regular sports events between the learners and teachers.

Ms. Désiré also reports successfully implementing the lessons learned from the School Leadership Professional Leadership workshops. Considering new ways to increase the efficiency of management based on her learnings, she noticed that teachers were overloaded with responsibilities. She introduced new Financial Management employees to the team, as well as restructured the roles of the existing staff. To top this, a performance indicator plan has been designed and implemented for the principal and teacher level for evaluation on a regular basis. Ms. Désiré had specifically noticed it was difficult to evaluate teachers’ actions on learners, so the tool she and her team developed aims to include this.

EMPOWERING FUTURE WOMEN LEADERS

Ms. Désiré understands the additional burdens that women face in education. To tackle this, she created a framework for girls to talk about their specific problems and challenges. She aspires for women to be “independent and ready to shine in society, with the particularity of an African woman who assures herself, but also with the dreams necessary for her success in all areas of her enterprises.” Female students have a clear outlet to thrive in this school environment.

EXPANDING SCHOOL INCLUSION

Going forward, Ms. Désiré is making her school accessible to the local orphanage, for one of the most vulnerable groups of the community to receive the education that they deserve. She knows that she will be able to manage her financial expenses well, and can include scholarship opportunities. She does wish for financial institutions to have a larger footprint in further removed villages, as this would help both the school and the parents to acquire educational loans.

EXCELLENCE PRIMARY SCHOOL

School owner Mulegwa Bovic greatly values community but felt isolated until CATALYZE EduFinance DRC gave him the chance to learn from a community of peers.

Having lived as an active member of his local town most of his life, Mr. Mulegwa Kashavu Bovic decided to open his own school, Excellence Primary & Secondary School*, in 2014. His motivation was clear right from the start: the school must be centered in the heart of the community, to serve the best interests of the students.

Starting with just six teachers and 48 learners, the school has grown to 11 teachers and more than 280 primary and secondary learners today. And there is a clear reason for this successful growth. Mr. Mulegwa organizes awareness-raising sessions for local parents, many of whom did not receive a formal education themselves, to learn about the positive impacts of quality education and how this can become accessible for families in the community.

In the early stages, the school struggled to fund regular purchases of books, a key need for quality education. Leaning into his entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. Mulegwa was able to restructure the spending habits of the school to free up funds for textbooks. It was around that time a teacher recommended Mr. Mulegwa consider applying for a loan from EduFinance DRC partner, CAHI Savings and Credit Cooperative (COOPEC CAHI), in Bukavu to increase the potential of the school.

FROM ISOLATION TO PEER-TO-PEER LEARNING

After closely discussing lending options with his local COOPEC CAHI branch officer Mr. Mulegwa then opted-in to the Education Quality program, with the vision of improving the management and expanding the outreach of his school long-term. He particularly values the impacts of the school cluster he joined – self-named the “Excellence” cluster - as he felt rather isolated and unaware of the practices of surrounding school owners. He states that bouncing ideas between each other has helped him learn more approaches and best practices to constantly improve his school.

APPLYING LEARNINGS FROM PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS

Reflecting on the School Leadership Professional Development workshops he has actively participated in, Mr. Mulegwa said he valued the lessons on School Marketing, Branding and Communication, as it furthered his knowledge on how best to equip his school to collaborate with his community.

To create a sense of community from within, Mr. Mulegwa now organizes regular meetings with his teachers and staff to establish collective goals for the future of the school. This provides a time for reflection, in which everyone is encouraged to participate and listen to each other. This has been a crucial aspect to the success of improvements in the school management process.

 

 

*The names of both schools in this blog have been changed to comply with Opportunity International’s child protection policy related to photos of children.

DISCLAIMER This blog was made possible through support provided by CATALYZE, a Private Sector Engagement Hub, Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation, U.S. Agency for International Development, under the terms of Contract No. 7200AA19C00080. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

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