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“We want to create a sense of belonging and involvement.” Education Specialists from Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda reflect on School Leadership Professional Development

By Catherine O’Shea and Surabhi Kumar

Three education specialists

Affordable non-state schools are set up by entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds. These include former teachers as well as business professionals. As with many business owners they often discover they lack key skills which would be beneficial for operating their schools.

As part of the EduQuality Program, a global team of Education Specialists in 12 countries deliver School Leadership Professional Development (SLPD). This offers senior school leaders the chance to take part in interactive sessions with a focus on instructional leadership and school management best practices.

Education Specialists deliver 12 SLPD workshops over three years to groups of school leaders who study modules covering topics that are most relevant to their contexts, including business and financial management, school marketing, teacher retention, and child protection. This training helps school leaders improve their schools, both as businesses and places of learning. 

School Leaders also recieve digital tablets from EduQuality, which they bring to each workshop and use for blended learning including comprehension quizzes, workshop satisfaction surveys and self-assessment surveys.

We recently interviewed three Education Specialists who have been delivering SLPD in Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana. They reflected on what their school partners have been learning and how the program continues to develop.

Abimbola Lasisi (Lagos, Nigeria) works with 53 schools organized into 9 clusters that are all currently completing Year 1, Module 4 of SLPD.

Josephine Falconer (Accra, Ghana) works with 62 schools organized into 10 clusters that are enrolled in either Year 1 or Year 3 of SLPD.

Jacqueline Nafuja (Kampala, Uganda) was until recently working with 72 schools in Greater Kampala, but now with additional support from another Education Specialist she is sharing this group and is now working with 34 schools in 7 clusters who are in Year 2 of SLPD.

How do you describe EduQuality's School Leadership Professional Development (SLPD)? 

Jacqueline:  SLPD is a great learning experience.  We have these special moments when we come together to interact, learn, and share knowledge. It's also a valuable networking opportunity, where school leaders build social connections and lifelong relationships with others. These relationships help grow businesses and, most importantly, provide quality education to students at an affordable cost.

Josephine:  These trainings are so valuable because they provide school leaders with the knowledge and understanding they need to run their schools successfully. Based on the feedback I've received from school leaders, these trainings have made a significant impact on their ability to effectively manage their schools. It's really amazing to see how effective and helpful these programs are for school leaders who may not have had prior experience in education.

Abimbola:  SLPD is a program that focuses on helping school leaders in different countries. It's specifically designed for leaders in low-income schools like mine. We all know that professional development can be quite expensive. Unfortunately, it's not easy for schools to afford such opportunities which is why this program is so important. We have received positive feedback from school leaders and teachers, and they describe it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

SLPD in Nigeria

Description: Abimbola facilitates an SLPD Workshop with school leaders in Nigeria

Can you tell us about a module that you have been leading recently?

Abimbola:  We started by learning about budgeting. It's crucial for school leaders to understand how to manage their finances and create a budget for the entire school year. In the second module, we focused on marketing and branding. They learned valuable strategies on how to effectively promote and showcase schools.  We want parents and the community to see that these schools provide quality education despite financial limitations.

In financial management, school leaders came together to learn how to handle their finances better. We shared ideas and experiences with each other, which was really helpful. One story that stood out to me was from a school leader who talked about how he was able to collect 90% of the school fees by the second week of the term. This was a big achievement for him because he used to struggle with collecting fees on time. Other school leaders were impressed by his success and learned some valuable tips from him.

Jacqueline:  Recently, I worked on the parent and community engagement module where we focused on giving school owners tips and strategies on how to build and maintain good relationships with parents and the community. We strongly believe that a school is not just about teaching, but it's also a part of the community. So, it's important for us to have strong connections with parents, community leaders, and everyone involved. We want to create a sense of belonging and involvement. But how do we do that? How do we make sure that parents and the community feel connected and engaged with the school? We share different approaches and best practices on how to operate as a united community.

Josephine:  I would like to talk about the Child Protection Module. It was really important for school leaders to understand how to keep our children safe. We focus on different aspects like having a Child Protection Policy, appointing a Child Protection Officer, and recognizing the signs of abuse and potential risks. We also learned about risk management and how to identify potential dangers. It is crucial to involve all the stakeholders in developing a child protection policy to ensure the safety and well-being of the children in our schools.

What kind of feedback have you heard from the school leaders?

Abimbola:  Let me tell you about this incredible feedback we got from a school leader. In our training on marketing and branding, we taught them how to use social media to promote their schools. And guess what? One school leader actually followed our advice and created a video showcasing the work of her students and uploaded it. Can you believe it? The video went viral. This success story not only boosted her enrollment numbers but also inspired other school leaders in the training. It's amazing to see how effective social media can be in promoting schools and bringing opportunities for students.

Josephine:  I will tell you about some feedback I got from one of the school leaders. She started her own school as a business person, not knowing much about education. When her teachers would talk about educational concepts she didn't understand, she felt overwhelmed. But after attending SLPD and being consistent with the sessions, she now understands and feels more confident. The teachers no longer confuse her with unfamiliar terms. Moreover, she has even designed special slides for children with special needs, which she learned about during SLPD and cluster meetings. It's amazing to see how the program has helped her grow and improve her school.

Jacqueline:  We’ve had schools sharing how the budgeting process has really helped them, that building strong relationships with parents has led to the timely payment of school fees, with some schools even getting 100% of the fees paid. One school leader stood out for me. During our discussion on staff maintenance in the previous SLPD session, he took a unique step. He noticed that many of his female teachers were either on maternity leave or struggling to balance work and childcare. To support them, he actually built a maternity unit and hired a nanny to take care of the babies while the teachers are in class. 

Roleplay activity in Ghana

Description: Two men participate in a role playing exercise during an SLPD workshop in Ghana

How have the school leaders responded to the use of tablets in their sessions?

Jacqueline:  We have two types of school leaders when it comes to the tablets we provide. Some are new to technology and need guidance on how to use the tablets effectively. Others are already comfortable with smartphones and know their way around. So there's a clear divide between the tech-savvy and those who need more support. Overall, the response to the tablets has been positive. They see it as a valuable tool for learning and embracing technology in their schools.

Josephine: There is a very similar situation in Ghana. Some school leaders are not very comfortable with technology, so we have to guide and assist them, which can be time-consuming. However, despite these challenges, I think the school leaders appreciate having the tablets as they recognize the benefits they bring. It's a gradual process, but I believe it's making a positive impact.

Abimbola: Most of the school leaders we work with are actually from the older generation, and they prefer having physical copies of materials. During our training, I noticed that some school leaders struggled with using the tablets so I pair them up with those who are more comfortable with technology. I find that this helps a lot because the tech-savvy ones can assist and support their peers who are not as familiar with operating the tablets. It's all about finding ways to help everyone succeed.

SLPD UGANDA

Description: An Education Specialist facilitates an SLPD workshop with a group of school leaders in Uganda

What do you hope is the future impact of SLPD for school leaders?

Abimbola: Many school leaders see the importance of these sessions and how they don't have to handle everything on their own. They're realizing that they can seek support from the community and other school leaders, not just financially, but in other areas too. While the current attendance is great, I want to find ways to make it even better. My main goal is to increase attendance and ensure that the school leaders can successfully implement the knowledge and strategies they acquire.

Jacqueline: After the three years of the SLPD program, my main focus would be on ensuring sustainability. I want to make sure that the schools continue with the relationships we have built as clusters even after the program ends. We are considering how can we ensure that the implementation continues and that the schools don't lose momentum. We can explore options such as alumni networks, online platforms, and continued professional development opportunities to foster ongoing learning and exchange among the school leaders.

Josephine:  During school visits, we've noticed that some school leaders start working on their school development plans but don't follow through to completion. To address this, we need to provide continuous encouragement and support, such as regular communication and personal interactions. Our goal should be to help them achieve their objectives and ensure that the knowledge we share is applied effectively.  Ultimately, the satisfaction lies in seeing the strategies we teach being implemented successfully, leading to tangible results and positive changes within the school community. Therefore, it's crucial to focus on supporting and motivating school leaders throughout the implementation process.

Read our recent blog on the Teacher Mentor of the Month Awards.

 

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