The reasons relate to systemic problems - crumbling schools, teacher shortages, poor leadership, corruption, poverty, ineffective foreign development aid. Simply building schools doesn't help because there is no one to staff them. Increasing teacher salaries doesn't help because more also needs to be spent on teacher training.
Most foreign organizations working to solve this problem of educating kids in developing nations attempt to drive change from the top down, i.e. working with Ministries of Education to improve or develop curriculum. This doesn't work because foreigners lack the intimate understanding of the intersection of policy and execution needed to successfully drive change from the top down.
The solution is humbling and regarded by many as beneath the talents of the highly educated men and women working in the development world - teach! Teaching is providing children the opportunity to learn...
THE SOLUTION: Provide these children learning opportunities with after school programs - After School & NewsHour - held in our own resource rich facility staffed by an experienced team of local and American staff.
Our local team is made up of our TOB Scholars. Our American staff is a wonderful continuously growing group of people from a diverse group of backgrounds committed to teaching. Working together we try to teach a community of 500+ students in Busua Beach. Busua is a small fishing village 5 hours west from Accra, the capital. We hope to have sustainable success in this village before replicating and scaling our solution.
The issue becomes HOW is this type of programming scalable and sustainable?
The market for traveling and serving abroad is growing at many levels in the US, Canada, and the UK - study abroad, alternative spring breaks, centers for service learning and civic engagement, gap-year, voluntourism, etc.
Our after school programs, After School and NewsHour, follow the model of after school programs in the US, providing students with an array of constructive opportunities to improve academic performance, stay out of trouble, and develop socially and emotionally. Our team and teaching fellows who are on the ground 365 days a year team up with short term volunteers to increase our after school teaching capacity and to document students' performance.
The alternative, hiring and training local teachers, is part of our plan for the future, but presents it own set of unique issues. Instead, we train our Scholars to be teachers and administrators of our programs.
Volunteers + Scholars = Sustainability
There are three methods we employ to make our solution sustainable.
- Teach kids to teach. Our Scholars teach the students frm the community
- Market the volunteer experience by providing accommodations, an attractive destination, on-ground American staff and clear tasks to making an impact - almost like a tour guide to changing the world.
- Creating Student Profiles on each of the students from the community. This data helps new volunteers quickly adapt to teaching new students as well as helps our organization make a case for our work.
The first method is simple and is used by many organizations. We actively recruit middle school students to tutor primary students - helping with homework, teaching review sessions before tests, etc. We add to this, however, by engaging our Scholars in managing our day-to-day operations - accounting, volunteer management, etc. - giving them all the tools necessary to run our teaching organization.
Teach on the Beach fellows and volunteers both pay to be part of our organization's work abroad. Why? Because it costs money to provide the necessary infrastructure, facilities & accommodations, and organization to make this work possible. As more volunteers travel to Teach on the Beach, our organization reaches more children with more resources.
Finally the data is key to making a revolving door of volunteers and fellows coalesce into a long term effort to improve education in this village. It is the glue that holds all their efforts togther and creates continuity.
Five Year Benchmarks
Scholars will be leading After School and NewsHour programs, integrating volunteers from around the globe in their efforts to constantly increase attendance and quality.
School partnerships are resulting in higher BECE and WASSCE test scores, more attention for our partner schools and our organization.
Our After School model will be replicated in five more high-need rural beach communities in Ghana...or elsewhere in the world.
NewsHour will be flourishing with 25 groups in the US and 5 groups internationally discussing with and writing to each other over Skype and Facebook weekly.