I guess you, the reader, now know what the abbreviation FIOHTG means. Well, FIOHTG has a lot in the envelope for you in terms of national development. The next “development shop” is the Education Unit headed by Aminata Secka.
In my conversation with Ms. Secka, I occasionally refer to the Lower Basic School system as Primary School. Ms. Secka always reminded me during our conversation that it (Lower Basic School) is no longer called Primary School. Well, I let her know that I came from the “old school” where I am used to a Primary School system. In my opinion, it is only the nomenclature that has changed over the years but the concept of the two nomenclatures are the same. So, when you read through this piece and come across Lower Basic School interchanging for Primary School, please forgive my old age and my hanging on to the past dearly.
The Unit started operations in 2005. In 2006, two Swedish philanthropists by the names of Sten and Katarina Pettersson went to visit an FIOHTG-built Lower Basic School in Lower River Region (LRR). During their visit at that particular Primary School, these two couples saw what they termed as passive learners. That is, the children repeated almost the same words the teachers said during the lesson periods. The couples were not happy about this method of teaching because the method produced less interaction between the teachers and the children. The couples were determined to make a change! They went back to Sweden to garner more support to change the teaching methodology. When they came back the second time around, Sten and Katarina Pettersson had discussions with MoBSE about their new plan. MoBSE approved their plan and from then on, three teachers were brought from Sweden to FIOHTG to train teachers to move away from “Talk and Chalk” to a more collaborative and active participation teaching methodology for our children learners.
The Unit has improved on the core curriculum (Maths, English, Science, etc.) of the Lower Basic Schools which is now in use by the teachers. The improved curriculum is now more child-centered with the full participation of children during delivery of lesson notes by the teachers. Over 1,000 Primary School teachers have now been trained by the Unit on this new teaching methodology. The trained teachers can be found in Region 3 (North Bank Region), Region 4 (Lower River Region, Region 5 (Central River Region), and Region 6 (Upper River Region), respectively. The Unit was working in three cluster Lower Basic Schools in each of these four Regions as a pilot Project.
Forum Syd, the main Swedish funders of the Unit wanted more concentration in the Lower Basic Schools in Regions 4, 5, and 6 because these three Regions consist of the least privileged school children in the country. To achieve that reality, in 2007, four retired teachers from Sweden were posted at these three Regions to emphasize their teaching methods on the Serholt Early Grade Reading Ability (SEGRA) philosophy. The SEGRA philosophy is about teaching the child to read and comprehend the material that is read. The SEGRA program developed a reading curriculum for FIOHTG that is still in use by FIOHTG. Because of the low reading ability of our Primary School children, the SEGRA program was also initiated in 2009 in Region 1 (The Greater Banjul Area). In Region 1, one private school, one government school, and one Christian Mission school were used as pilot schools for this SEGRA program. Progress was made on the content and delivery of the SEGRA program by the teachers. Because of this progress, the program was revised in 2010 to suit all categories of Primary Schools in the country.
For example, as a result of the SEGRA program, the National Assessment Test (NAT) results showed a 100% passing grade by third graders in Region 4. Other Regions in the country also fared well as a result of the reading skills acquired by the school children. Teachers’ writing skills were also improved. Community members (which include Parent Teacher Association members, School Management Committee members, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, etc.) also participate in producing the Teaching Aids. The Unit receives very good support from the local MoBSE staff at the Regional levels. The Unit has so far trained 32 Cluster Trainers to sustain the SEGRA philosophy. In 2013 – 2014, MoBSE decided to synchronize all teaching materials and good practices from all other intervention organizations for the betterment of our children. In every School Term, a refresher training for Cluster Monitors is held. Thanks to MoBSE for providing active staff who help to enhance the work of the Unit at FIOHTG.
With all the positive signs of improvement in the learning ability of our children, two components reading (i.e. fluency and comprehension) are still not fully achieved. However, recognition of sounds in words, connecting sounds and letters, and reading at a good pace (i.e. 5 to 10 words per minute) have been achieved. Another challenge encountered by the Unit is the inconsistent and late arrival of teachers (both new and returning ones) during the Cluster Training sessions. Funding is limited for Grades 4, 5, and 6 and to train more teachers for Grades 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Some clauses of the MoU with MoBSE should be amended so that the Unit at FIOHTG could operate in a whole Region instead operate in only two school clusters in a Region.
So, start supporting or continue to support the work of FIOHTG for the educational advancement of our children. The FUTURE IS IN THE HANDS OF ALL OF US!! More information on FIOHTG will come your way in our subsequent editions. Keep reading!!
Sidat Yaffa, Ph.D.
On Sabbatical Leave
Contacts: Website – www.fioh.org; Email – firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel. – 4460363/4466868