Anita is a kindergarten teacher at Sarkis Foundation School in Takoradi, where she has been teaching for the last three years. She is a dedicated teacher whose goal is to become a master trainer for Foundation First. To get there, she aims to do a good deal of learning and practising and she’s glad that she has the opportunity to be mentored by our most experienced master trainers, such as Bibi Kolevi
Anita the reflective practitioner
At the end of April 2021, Anita accompanied Bibi and other members of the Foundation First (FF) teacher development and support team when they delivered a workshop in Akyem Oda, in the Eastern Region of Ghana, for staff of Edify Ghana partner schools. Anita’s observations and participation at the workshop have since led her to develop and change some of her own teaching practices. For example, she has been working recently on improving her classroom questioning techniques and providing a greater range of activities to help the children in her class to think critically.
Anita the trainee master trainer
Not only the April workshop, but also a recent workshop delivered by FF’s master trainers for master trainees has helped Anita move forward in her journey towards becoming an FF master trainer. This workshop explored important topics, such as the foundations of best practices in early childhood learning and Ghana’s national teaching standards, and it gave the trainees an opportunity to practise delivering training in a safe and supportive environment. Anita told us she greatly benefited from the workshop and she suggested that the master trainers start periodically coaching and testing her and her fellow trainees on all Foundation First’s early years content.
BEST OF LUCK ON YOUR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT JOURNEY ANITA!
We were delighted to welcome Tuuli Gaamuo Fidelis (Programme Officer, JICA) and Wada Yoshinari (Volunteer Coordinator, JICA) to our office this month.
The purpose of the visit was for us to expand our knowledge about the contribution that JICA volunteers, known as Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs), have for more than forty years been making to various sectors in Ghana, including education, and for us to share Foundation First’s strategy, approach, progress and challenges. We also talked with Wada and Fidelis about the possibility of us hosting a JOCV computer instructor to help us with developing a database, online teacher training programmes, and updating our website.
Seven members of the Foundation First team were able to brief Fidelis and Wada about different aspects of our work, especially in relation to how we work with teachers and the wider community. Our two volunteers, Stephens and Dela, talked positively about their experiences of volunteering with us. They praised our induction process, the way we plan our programmes and activities, and our team work. They spoke of how our team work leads to effectiveness in what we do and enables everyone to learn from each other.
At the end of their visit, Wada and Fidelis told us that one thing that had appealed to them from the moment of entering our office were our prominently positioned posters declaring: “I am a learner, you are a learner, we are ALL learners”. During their stay, they had been able to see our team spirit shining through – and Fidelis said he was even tempted to apply to volunteer with us!
As part of a blog series about our kindergarten teacher support and development work in Koforidua and Greater Accra in partnership with Edify Ghana, this blog talks about our final visits to the schools involved.
Five to six weeks after the successful delivery of our workshops in mid February 2021, a joint Foundation First / Ghana Edify team visited the schools that had participated in the workshops. The visits were aimed mainly at discovering the impact of the workshops by observing subsequent changes in the schools’ kindergarten classrooms. The observers did also engage in coaching teachers in areas they were uncertain about or struggling with.
What the visits revealed
We discovered that the workshops had considerable impact because all the classrooms visited had improved in a number of ways. Naturally, some classrooms had improved more than others and we also discovered that teachers’ use of some teaching and learning approaches had improved more than others.
We were pleased to see that children engaging in self-registration was the approach where the greatest improvement was found between our pre- and post-workshop visits. Similarly, teachers putting children into groups, using story maps and having classroom rules displayed visibly were all very significant and encouraging improvements.
Some of the approaches where the least progress had been made did not greatly concern us because the lack of progress was a reflection of the fact that many teachers had been using the approaches before the workshops. One of these was praising children for positive behaviour because, although more teachers were doing this more often after the workshops, it had been in evidence before. Similarly, daily story sharing was occurring a bit more after the workshops, more classrooms were inviting places for children to spend their time in, and there were more forms of printed material (e.g. charts, labels, maps etc.) for children to interact with than previously.
While the results were encouraging and revealed that many teachers had successfully adopted new teaching and learning approaches as a result of the workshops, we feel that further support and encouragement will be needed to enable them to improve even more. This will enable a full transformation of their classrooms and will be to the full benefit of the children in their care.
While delivering two classroom management-focused workshops for Edify partner schools in late February, the five-person Foundation First team were struck by the huge impact the workshops were having on the participants. Upon reflection, they realised that a major contributor to this was that each of them was delivering sessions in the areas where they particularly excel. This high impact shouldn’t actually surprise us because, as we all know, excellent workshop delivery leads to thorough understanding and enthusiastic take-up on the part of participants.
The areas in which the team displayed their expertise
1. Starting with Araba Brakah-Amoah, she excelled in these workshops in modelling how to carry out story sharing effectively. She did this through applying a combination of technical and affective skills, such as varying her voice and throwing herself into the storyline. Teachers were spellbound and are now anxious to have the same effect on the children they teach.
2. Bibi Kolevi’s expertise lay in linking teaching and learning resources to specific parts of Ghana’s 2019 kindergarten curriculum, which teachers are still becoming accustomed to. She made sure teachers knew precisely how to make resources, how to use them, when to use them, and how they match the government’s daily plan for kindergarten education.
3. Ruth Abakah was our specialist in matching classroom wall displays to the curriculum. She helped teachers to see the specific value and use of each display and how it enriches the learning environment. This means that now the teachers have put their new displays on their classroom walls, the children are both enjoying them and learning from them.
4. Sabina Awortwe was our expert in linking the ideas of educational philosophers on how young children learn to the classroom practices that Foundation First promotes. Sabina was also highly skilled in linking the values, attitudes, professional knowledge and professional practice that the government expects teachers to have with Ghana’s national curriculum.
5. And last but not least, Dr Godwin Agbavor specialised in convincing teachers that they, along with all of us, have a lot to learn from neuroscience about how to create nurturing environments for young children. As the Foundation First team leader, Godwin also specialised in nurturing and supporting the rest of the team, thereby enabling them to individually and collectively deliver excellent teacher education workshops.
At the end of the two workshops, teachers were able to clearly outline their learning and how they were going to put it into practice.
Our thank yous
Thank you from the rest of the Foundation First team to Araba, Bibi, Ruth, Sabina and Godwin for delivering these successful workshops.
Thank you too to the Edify Ghana team, especially Dorcas Aidoo and Florentine Ansah Asare, for the tremendous support you provided, thereby significantly contributing to the success.
And thank you to Edify’s partner schools in Greater Accra and Koforidua for so wholeheartedly taking part in the workshops and for having already shared with the Edify Ghana team and with us plenty of evidence as to how you have put new ideas into practice.
A joint Foundation First and Edify team discover the extent of the current challenge of transforming classrooms during our recent baselining of Edify partner schools
As Ghana’s schools reopened after almost ten months of closure, Foundation First and Edify staff visited thirty schools to baseline their current performance. The data gathered will guide our training for the schools and help us provide them with bespoke assistance that is responsive to each school’s unique requirements.
Here are the key findings on how COVID-19 has adversely affected these schools:
Most of them have had to combine Kindergarten (KG) 1 and KG 2 children in one classroom, which is far from ideal
Re-enrolment of children has been slow-paced since they reopened
In many schools, the previous KG teachers have not returned since their reopening, and so new teachers have been hired/are being hired
Most of these new teachers are senior school certificate holders, but they lack teaching qualifications
As Literacy Education Specialist, Adwoa Nyantekyiwaa, one of our Edify colleagues, put it, “The baseline activity offered us a wonderful opportunity to know the needs of the partner schools with regards to the kind of teacher support and development that should be given to the KG teachers.” Adwoa and the rest of the baselining team concluded that all schools visited are in dire need of our training and coaching support. The need is greater in the twenty schools we visited in Koforidua in the Eastern Region of Ghana than in the ten schools we visited in Greater Accra.
Foundation First’s role in supporting Edify Ghana
This is the fourth time that we have joined forces with the Edify Ghana team to deliver their classroom management training (CMT) programme. The programme aims to transform the classroom management practices of kindergarten teachers and enable them to adopt activity-based methods of teaching in order to improve pupil learning. Having completed the baselining, we will be delivering the CMT for these schools later this month (February). After that, in mid March, we and our Edify partners will visit the schools to monitor and coach the teachers.
We are revising our plans for this round of training to take into account that, due to the effects of COVID–19, the results of the baseline differed markedly from the results of previous baselines. Edify’s COVID–19 Recovery Plan focuses on three aspects: their partner schools’ financial stability, the health and safety of their students and staff, and their pupils’ learning. In delivering this latest CMT programme, we will be supporting Edify Ghana with the second and third aspects of their Recovery Plan.
We are looking forward to Thursday 11 February when the training begins and we are confident that the schools are too. Bawa John, Headteacher of Christ Reminders Academy, told us, “My expectation about the upcoming training is that the participants will gain more knowledge about how to manage their classrooms effectively, especially during this Covid–19 era.”
Our CEO, Dr Godwin Kojo Agbavor, reflects on recent visits to schools in Sekondi-Takoradi and highlights the forthcoming delivery of training in the Eastern Region and in Greater Accra, in partnership with Edify Ghana.
On Monday 18th January, nursery, kindergarten and primary schools in Ghana reopened after an almost ten-month break. Our core team in Ghana (Sabina, Brou and myself) were anxious to get back into classrooms as soon as possible, but we waited a couple of days for staff and children to settle back into some sort of routine. Then, on Wednesday 20th and Thursday 21st January we visited the schools where our master trainers are practising teachers.
As our pool of master trainers now consists of lower primary teachers as well as our original pre-school teachers, we were able to see something of what is currently going on at all levels of schooling from nursery up to the third year of primary (i.e. in classrooms catering for children between the ages of two and nine). We saw firsthand how experiences are varying, as some of our master trainers teach in government schools while others teach in low-fee-paying private schools, and some teach in rural settings while others teach in urban settings. Our assessment is that all schools are striving, but that government and rural schools are in particular need of support to return to normal operations.
We were pleased to discover that most previously enrolled children had returned to school (unlike, sadly, some of their older siblings, due to such things as pregnancy, travel or having prematurely become wage-earners through learning a trade during lockdown) and most children seemed happy to be back and learning with their teachers again. We also discovered that the schools had made a good effort to provide a safe environment. For example, veronica buckets were placed at various positions to encourage regular handwashing and some teachers were constantly reminding children to wash their hands. Apparently, the government had provided sufficient sanitisers and liquid soap to enable frequent hand washing. Teachers and many children in some of the schools were wearing face masks, but in other schools few children were wearing them. We were told this was because the government hadn’t provided them. We could see that, for the most part, children had been sensitised about the COVID protocols they were expected to follow and that (except for the youngest ones) they had some awareness of how to avoid contracting COVID and why they should do so.
Despite some positives, it was clear that the schools are facing many challenges as a result of being closed for so long. Generally speaking, children had forgotten much of the content of their previous learning as well as how best to go about the actual process of learning. At KG level, for instance, we were told that children who were previously able to write their names had now forgotten how to do so and that those who had been used to picking up and reading story books by themselves had forgotten about such things. However, the good news is that, in just three to four days, some of the teachers had started to see improvements. They did mention, however, that they needed to be extra patient with the children to achieve such improvements and we fear that many teachers may not have the same level of patience.
Unsurprisingly, we observed that both teachers and children (especially younger children) were having difficulty observing social distancing. This has got us thinking about how best we can help teachers with this issue. One thing we’ve realised is that social distancing complements the government’s insistence that outdoor learning is a critical part of the curriculum, especially at preschool level. We will also be helped in our promotion of outdoor learning by the fact that fresh air reduces transmission of COVID.
Some teachers told us that some of their teaching and learning resources were in a sorry state or had gone missing, so needed replacing. Unfortunately for one school, thieves had broken in and helped themselves to furniture, giving the head teacher and one of our master trainers a headache and lots of extra work.
Something that Sabina, Brou and I were particularly conscious of was how teachers were still struggling to get their classrooms back to normal – or to a new normal. We couldn’t help reflecting that, faced with a similar scenario in the future, it would be better if the government stipulated that school staff should spend a week setting up their schools before the children returned. Some teachers told us that, for some time to come, they will have to put in a good deal of extra time at the end of the school day to make new resources. Our concern is for all those teachers that we have yet to work with – and the children in their care – who are not as committed as these teachers.
We met with the head teachers at the schools to find out how they are adjusting to the reopening of their schools and to reaffirm our relationship with them. They were very welcoming, were happy to talk to us, and wanted updates on Foundation First’s plans for 2021. We are delighted and grateful that they value the work of Foundation First and we appreciate the major part that their teachers, who are also our master trainers, play in our success.
It was highly beneficial for us to discover some of the challenges the schools are facing, especially as in early February we are delivering classroom management training with our partner, Edify, in selected Edify schools in the Eastern Region of Ghana and in Greater Accra. In fact, six of us are spending this last week of January in one or the other of these two locations with our Edify partners to conduct a baseline analysis and needs analysis at the schools whose staff we will be delivering the training to in February. Our findings from our recent school visits helped prepare us for this baseline stage and will help us in preparing for the training stage in February.
I want to acknowledge here our fantastic and hard working partner schools and master trainers for opening up and sharing their challenges with us. Our first day of school visits began at the naval-base cluster of schools in Takoradi, where our master trainers Esther Boateman and Ami Shaidda teach. We moved onto the Queen Elizabeth II Early Childhood Learning Centre, where our colleague Araba Brakoa-Amoah teaches, and finally we went to Amenano District Kindergarten School, where our veteran master trainers Ruth Abakah and Bibi Kolevi teach. On our second day of visits, we went to Precious ELAN Preparatory School, where our colleague Rita Frimpong teaches, and Sarkis Foundation School, where Anita Aidoo teaches. FF will be doing all that we can to support these education champions in the coming months.