Tag Archives: teachers

Pete Simms – Afghanistan – Children’s voices

1 Dec

I especially enjoy talking to children, who seem able to stay optimistic, to dream big, and have real, genuine hope for the future. 

2014 has been a critical year for Afghanistan with elections and troop withdrawal characterising a change in the direction of the country. There is now a new President, one who promises to end the corruption that permeates so much of Afghan politics, and the national military have now taken over responsibility for security from NATO. But what does this change mean for the average person and what does it mean for organisations like Children in Crisis who are trying to bring the right to education to some of the most underprivileged children in the country?

The first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history was an incredible achievement. Democracy only works if people believe in it, and during the election thousands of Afghans defied the threats of the Taliban, the distance to the voting booth, and the corruption of the political system to cast their vote and have their voice heard.

The challenges to building a stable, peaceful nation are still enormous, but people are now demanding that they be heard, that their voice be listened to. This is a significant step along the path to meeting basic human rights and of building a pluralistic society that values the role of all.

Much of the focus on the election was on the involvement of women, and for somewhere that has systematically and structurally undermined the concept of gender equality, the 38% of voters who were women should be celebrated.

At Children in Crisis we believe that everyone’s voices should be heard and that a society should listen to its most vulnerable as much as its most powerful. I spend a lot of my time talking to the people we work with, listening to their stories and to their hopes for the future. I especially enjoy talking to children, who seem able to stay optimistic, to dream big, and have real, genuine hope for the future. Adults can be cynical, sceptical of change and distrustful of those offering it, but children are not.

CBEC pupils 1

I recently spoke to a young girl called Sabera. She had moved to Kabul with her family five years earlier to escape the conflict that still continues in much of the country. Her family was extremely poor and, like most girls in Afghanistan, Sabera had never been to school before Children in Crisis opened a Community Based Education Centre (CBEC) near to her home. Her father is a day labourer and she and her brothers and sisters all work to make sure there is enough food every day.

When I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up she said she wants to be a teacher. She wants to help other children go to school. What impressed me so much about this 12 year old girl’s answer was how she immediately, unquestioningly, wanted to help others. Her hope and dream was to make sure other children receive their basic right to education.

When I asked Sabera about what she wanted for Afghanistan her answers were a mix of the deeply personal and the universal. She wanted a home of her own, an understandable dream for someone who lives in a temporary shelter and who craves a foundation, a structure to an otherwise temperamental existence. She wanted peace – more than anything she talked about security, about an end to her constant fear. She said she wanted people in Afghanistan to be friends with each other.

Afghanistan has certainly improved in the 13 years since the removal of the Taliban regime. However the decision to draw down the international military support and to reduce the humanitarian and development aid to the country is far too premature. The gains made in bringing quality education to the first ever generation of Afghan children should be celebrated, but while more than half of school-aged children are still denied access and are required to work to help feed their families there should be no thought of turning back.

Group of kids - 700 pixels wide

In one of our CBECs in Kabul I sat with a group of children enjoying the last few days of the autumn, the snow already visible on the line of mountains that snakes around the capital. Rafi told me he wanted to be a pilot, or a football player, and that he hoped that in the future Afghanistan would be like other countries. He listed off the names of the main international contributors – the US, Germany, the UK – these far away countries that he has heard so much about. He said he wanted the different ethnic groups to live together; a pertinent point for this divided country. Nazifa, a bright and precocious young girl who, in line with her dream of one day being a judge, said she wanted the new President to bring justice, to help poor people, and to build more hospitals.

two boys - 700 pixels wide

All of the children talked of their wish for the fighting to stop. They talked about ending the sounds of war – the bombs, the guns, the explosions. Sara wanted to be a doctor when she grows up so that she can help her community. When I asked her what she wanted most of all, what she dreamed of, she said to end the violence against girls like her and against women like her mother.

As the troops are pulled out it is more important than ever to step up our work in Afghanistan. We cannot allow the situation to slip backwards. Incredible achievements have been made; people have started to imagine a future of optimism – we have a responsibility to try and make that a reality.

Children in Crisis is delighted to announce that all funds given by the British public between the 3rd September and the 2nd December 2014 will be matched, pound for pound, by the UK government.

Your support of our work has never been more powerful or important.


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Amanda Jones – Sierra Leone – it’s all in the percentages

12 Feb

” ‘some’ soon becomes ‘all’ and ‘get through’ fast becomes ‘reach their full potential’.”

I’m nearing the end of this trip to Sierra Leone and, in meloncholy at the thought of leaving, I am taking the opportunity to reflect upon another month spent in the beautiful Kambia district.

And ‘reflect’ is quite the apposite word to choose, since ‘reflection’ has characterised the theme of my visit to the FAWE team this time, with whom we are implementing a UKAid-funded primary education programme.

This current project began in January 2012, and has targetted 45 schools with teacher training, school governance and management training, adult education support, and establishing community groups who are responsible for supporting the school.  The end of the project is nigh and so we have been talking to key individuals who have been involved throughout the initiative, to illicit their views on the gains made and challenges faced so far.

Before I go on, let me first set the stage.  As all good project teams do, we’ve been assessing ourselves as we go and, so far, our findings have been encouraging.  I will draw upon end of year class test scores as an example.

Looking at the 24 schools targetted in the first year of the project (target schools), the percentage of children who passed their end of year class tests last June increased by 9.4% compared to results from the year before we started our work.  Amongst those who passed the tests, 27.5% scored more than 70% (the pass mark is 50% so scoring 70% or more is a good result), compared to only 11.6% of children who scored more than 70% the previous year; so an increase of 15.9% here.

The percentage of children who passed their end of year class tests last June increased by 9.4% compared to results from the year before we started our work

The percentage of children who passed their end of year class tests last June increased by 9.4% compared to results from the year before we started our work

We compared all of these test results to those from the 21 schools with whom we are working now (new schools), and had not worked with before the tests were taken.  This is where things get really interesting.  Now remember that in our target schools the percentage of children who passed increased by 9.4%.  Well the corresponding figure for the new schools was only 4.1%.  Likewise, the percentage  of children in new schools who scored more than 70% increased by only 0.3% from the previous year, compared to the 15.9% increase seen in the target schools.  I’ve included a table that might explain the findings better than I can put into words… too many ‘%s’ perhaps?

Table1 v2

So, tick.  Remembering that test results don’t capture the full extent of learning, and can themselves be flawed measures of progress, the findings suggest that learning is improving, and that our work is contributing toward this positive change.

"Flip charts have been flying, pen lids popping, and  stones (for voting) scattering."

“Flip charts have been flying, pen lids popping, and stones (for voting) scattering.”

So, motivated by these reassuring findings, we are of course eager to continue.  Now, we know there are still many challenges faced by the 45 schools, and education is still not at the quality that it needs to be to enable children to reach their full potential.  So who better to consult on next steps, but the people with whom we’re directly working?

So, over the past week or so, the FAWE office has been full of Head Teachers, parents learning to read and write, and community group leaders.  Flip charts have been flying, pen lids popping, and  stones (for voting) scattering.  Its been hectic, and a real tell on my Krio (the lingua franka) skills, but the results are now in and they are interesting to say the least!

We asked 12 Head Teachers if they wanted to continue working with us and all 12 said yes.  Great!  So we asked them what they would like us to do directly with the school.  83% said more teacher training, whilst 67% said more School Management Committee (SMC) training and 50% asked for more training for themselves.  Reasons given included:

 “I will prefer H/Teacher training because I am not opportune to be trained by MEST [the Ministry of Education].  I was just an assistant teacher that have been promoted to Head Teacher.  So I need to be trained as H/Teacher” and The teacher training will be very much important because most of the teachers are not trained and cannot afford to go to college because of financial constraint’”.

But we wanted to know how they would like to go about this training.  We suggested training options – would you like to have refresher training workshops, much like the approach we used last year, or would you like to try something new, and have Teacher Trainers placed in your schools longer term, for more 1-2-1 coaching and mentoring, and training workshops designed more specifically to meet your needs?  Two thirds of the Head Teachers interviewed opted for the more traditional refresher training approach (perhaps we’re onto a good thing here), whilst a third suggested the Teacher Trainer placement scheme.  Why refresher training?  The most frequent reason given was that training content is easily forgotten, and who cannot attest to that?!  What an insight into the need for continuous in-service training, even for qualified personnel (of which there is a severe shortage in the schools with which we work).

We asked members of the community groups that are supporting schools about the support and training they’d received through the project. From this we learnt that people wanted more training in book-keeping, and project proposal writing, so that they are able to access funds from other avenues (e.g. government grants, or grants from embassies).

With adult learners, we learnt that they have very differing aspirations for their own learning.  Some parents are eager to read books (one woman said she wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in telling her children to finish their education if she had not finished her own), whilst others are happy to learn just how to write their name as they do not have time in the day to progress past this level.  This has implications for the design of the adult education programme, as we need to be flexible to people’s  aspirations and availability.  We were also told that adult learners wanted to learn more about business skills (receiving 36% of a vote to prioritise topics suggested by the workshop participants), agriculture (23%), planning daily activities (23%), and family planning (18%).  We also learnt that the main problems facing the adult learning groups are the time constraints of the learners themselves as their other responsibilities make them late for classes, if they have chance to come at all, and means they have little time to study at home.

"back to the flipcharts, back to the priority matrixes, and focusing on planning..."

“back to the flipcharts, back to the priority matrixes, and focusing on planning…”

These are just a few highlights of our findings, all of which are currently being spilled over as we plan our follow-up support programme.  Of course we’re reflecting critically, and not taking things at face value.  Debate is raging in the FAWE/Children in Crisis office at the moment, I can tell you!

So we’re now back to the flipcharts, back to the priority matrixes, and focusing on planning activities that will bring this learning to life.  It’s fun and exciting and I am led to revel, once again, at incredible privilege I have to work alongside the innovative and inspiring FAWE team, school personnel and community members who despite all the odds, succeed in getting some kids through.  I take very seriously my responsibility to support these groups to build on what they have already achieved, so that ‘some’ soon becomes ‘all’ and ‘get through’ fast becomes ‘reach their full potential’.

Thank you for reading and if you have any ideas or questions, please feel free to contact Children in Crisis!

info@childrenincrisis.org / 020 7627 1040

Dru McInenrey – Summer Intern

24 Jul

Hello, Dru here

I am Children in Crisis’s summer Intern! A little background on myself, I am a Government and International Politics Major from across the pond at George Mason University near Washington DC. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to London for the summer, and even more fortunate to land an internship for an outstanding charity. Naturally, the first thing I wanted to do upon my arrival was to orient myself with the astounding work Children in Crisis produced over the past 20 years. This is when I discovered the vast photo library.

The Children in Crisis photo library has thousands of pictures of children and communities spanning over four continents and numerous countries.  Going through some of our most recent photos, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some pictures of where we have been and where we are going this year. Posted are photos from some our programme visits to communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Democratic Republic of Congo. I’ve highlighted just a few of many programs that have positively affected these hard to reach communities. In addition I have added pictures of the marginalised Batwa communities of Burundi that Children in Crisis plans to begin working with in the near future. Hope you enjoy the optimism depicted in these photos as much as I did.


-Dru McInenrey

Burundi, Batwa

The children of Burundi are just as curious as we are optimistic about Children in Crisis’s vision for education.

Burundi, children, batwa

It is evident the children of Burundi don’t lack imagination. With proper schooling the future is bright!

Burundi, Batwa, children

Girls from the Batwa community perform a dance in front of their friends and family.

burundi, batwa, children

It’s the boys turn! Batwa boys are excited to perform in front of their community.

Sierra Leone - Children in Crisis trained 159 Teachers in 2012.

Sierra Leone – Children in Crisis trained 159 Teachers in 2012.

Empowering Women in Liberia!  337 women participated in our Vocational Training Programme in 2012.

Empowering Women in Liberia! 337 women participated in our Vocational Training Programme in 2012.

Democratic Republic of Congo . In 2012 Children in Crisis built a permanent, weather-proof, durable school to give 269 children a place in which they can sit and learn.

Democratic Republic of Congo . In 2012 Children in Crisis built a permanent, weather-proof, durable school to give 269 children a place in which they can sit and learn.

Sarah J – Sierra Leone – Launch and REFLECT

3 Aug

“The REFLECT approach links adult learning to empowerment, which is especially important when working with marginalised groups such as women…”

It has been a while since I updated this blog and as always plenty has been happening so I will share with you a couple of key things that have been very exciting.

We officially launched the project . . .

At the end of June we launched the project that Children in Crisis and ABC-Development are implementing together in Kambia District at community and district level. Although the project has been running since mid-April we waited until June to officially launch because the communities, with support from their facilitators and the ABC team, had completed their social maps and come up with actions (and budgets to go with them) to address the problems in education that they have identified. This meant that at each launch it was not just ABC, Children in Crisis, District Council, and other NGOs that spoke about the project and the need for the work in Kambia. Instead, community representatives, nominated by the communities, were also able to address those attending and share what they have been doing to develop their proposals.

Kontha Community Social Map

Kontha Community Social Map

The community voices were heard. The communities brought their social maps to the District Level launch and proudly displayed them on the walls for everyone to see. This was an important opportunity for engaging with others in the district to start to show what the communities can do with our support, and to show what we have done so far so that we can continue to bring people together in this way to have open discussions and demonstrate the results as the project goes on.

Social Maps

ABC Team and facilitators putting up their Community Social Maps for the district launch.

We brought together local partners to have training of REFLECT Trainers…

I mentioned in the first blog post that a key element of the project we are running with ABC is REFLECT, which is an adult literacy and community development methodology. In fact the RELFECT approach is an important component of both the projects Children in Crisis is working on in Kambia –the other one being in partnership with FAWE Sierra Leone which you can read about here.

The REFLECT approach links adult learning to empowerment, which is especially important when working with marginalised groups such as women.   REFLECT builds on what people already know rather than what they don’t know through its use of participatory methodology and is therefore a continuation of what has already been done on the ABC project with the communities.

REFLECT Training

REFLECT Training session outline

We brought the ABC and FAWE teams together at the start of July to attend training in RELFECT delivered by a new local partner organisation called the Baloya Development Foundation (BALDE). This training was to equip the teams to be able to train the literacy facilitators that will be selected by and working in their communities to run literacy circles, which will then meet weekly (usually more than once). Issues that are important to the learners and the community form the centre of the circles, so that these issues are discussed and words relevant to them learnt. By the end of each meeting learners agree on an action (no matter how small) they can take to address the issue(s).

The training has been very valuable, enabling the teams to develop their knowledge and skills, equipping them to share these with the facilitators so they can work for their communities, and also bringing local partners together –ABC, Balde and FAWE- to share their strengths and learn from each other.

Below is a snapshot in pictures of that training:

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Welcome to Sierra Leone (aka Sarah Jones’ secondment)

10 May

Welcome to Sierra Leone

We arrive in Sierra Leone at a very busy Lungi airport which probably has something to do with the fact we were last off the plane. So now we have to try and spot our bags through the sea of people and figure out a way to get through the human assault course with my huge suitcase, filled with as much as I could cram in for my three month secondment in Sierra Leone. We manage to hoist it off the belt and onto the trolley and make our way out to find the speedboat company we need to take us across from Lungi to Freetown. With this task completed we board the speedboat, put on our very wet life jackets, and set off. Predictably, given how hot I remember it being when we were here this time last year, within minutes I’m dripping with sweat; but it’s a funny kind of satisfactory confirmation that I’m here after all the preparations of the last couple of months.

Members of Sierra Leonean NGO ABC Development

Our colleagues from ABC Development discuss the pilot project with Children in Crisis Director of Programmes, Sarah Rowse (far right)

In Freetown, we spend some time with our new partner organisation ABC Development who I will be working with for the next three months. ABC are the implementing partner on our new pilot project, ‘Developing Low Cost and Lasting Solutions for Sierra Leone’s poorest’.  After what have now been a few weeks with them, I can see that ABC are an impressive organisation. They have an office in Freetown and a larger office in Kambia District. In the latter, practically all the staff are from Kambia; they know it inside out, they have strong relationships with the communities, they are well known and respected throughout the District at all levels (from the communities to the District Council), they understand the challenges, the local customs and traditions, they also know the positives and what makes Kambia special to the people who live there despite the hardships they face. We can hardly drive down the road without people shouting out and waving to the team.

Children in Crisis - Sierra Leone - Freetown

Freetown, Sierra Leone

What is the pilot project all about?

The project is working with three communities in Gbinleh Dixon Chiefdom in Kambia District to improve access to and quality of education for children. It will be working with vulnerable communities to support them to send their children to school. It recognises that especially in the very rural areas, communities are struggling to ensure children get an education. In the absence of investment from the state due not least to lack of Government capacity, they have set up their own community schools. According to legislation these should be taken over by the government after three years (for primary school) to ease the burden, however in reality this is the exception rather than the rule. This means that teachers are not paid but rely on the community to provide them with monetary incentives and given the poverty of the communities, this is a huge demand.  At the same time parents have to cover all the hidden costs that make the idea of free primary education for all something of a misnomer –children need uniforms, books, their weekly contribution to receive food at school. If they cannot provide these, this in itself can turn into a reason that children are not attending school.

We are working in Gbinleh Dixon Chiefdom, which is one of the most vulnerable and marginalised in Kambia District. There really is minimal input from NGOs and government. Many simply receive no support at all. This is a real struggle and in a polygamous society where a man might have up to five wives, it usually falls to the women to support their children to attend school because their husband may only help a few of the children, and then it’s usually boys. They work all hours on their domestic duties as well as trying to generate an income to pay for their children’s education. Often, the whole community –whether collectively or in groups for women and groups for men- join forces to undertake agricultural projects to generate an income to support education but because they have no external assistance these often grind to a halt after a time because they cannot afford the costs of the enterprise compared to the profits yielded or because it’s simply too hard. Communities are trying, but without any support the odds are stacked against them.

Children in Crisis - Sierra Leone - Rural Kambia

Rural Kambia

That’s why this project is seeking to support communities to identify their main barriers to ensuring children get a good quality education and to come up with projects they want to work on collectively with our support to address these. This is about communities making their voices heard and taking the lead. This is important because it’s not unheard of for development agencies to assume to know what communities need and to embark on a project without really taking the time to listen to communities and reflect on what’s needed. Communities who are vulnerable and not receiving any other support are hardly in a position to turn down an intervention even if it isn’t the most useful to them.  So projects go ahead, but they are often unsustainable and don’t have the greatest impact. We want to overcome this and ensure that communities are really leading the way and that we are building on what they are or have been doing already.

Alongside the projects that communities will be undertaking throughout the project with financial and practical support in the form of ‘stepped’ grants (whereby the next stage is achieved based on successful achievement of the previous one) from Children in Crisis and ABC, we will also be working with communities to run REFLECT literacy circles. These circles will be for men and women, but there will be an emphasis on the latter. By improving their literacy, parents will be more likely to place a greater value on education and will be better placed to support their children’s learning. REFLECT is an approach to adult literacy that is well established and recognised as an effective way of opening up spaces for those who are marginalised to have their voices heard and bringing about social change. The REFLECT circles will also receive training in small enterprise and money management to help parents to more effectively manage their money and therefore be better placed to designate funds to support their children in school. We will also provide a sustainability fund to the communities to put them in a strong position to maintain the activities set up under the project once the project has come to an end. Although the reality is that at present the Government lacks the capacity to meet its obligations to provide quality education for all, we will engage the District Council closely throughout the project. In the final analysis the state is the ultimate duty bearer and part of the project will be about building better collaboration between the state, communities, and NGOs to strengthen and reward the effectiveness and quality of self-reliant community based approaches to education.

Children in Crisis - Sierra Leone - Sarah Jones Training session with ABC Development

Me holding a training session with ABC Development

What am I doing here for the next three months?   

I will be working with ABC until mid-July to get our partnership and project off to a strong start. I will be in the office or in the communities with them every day giving us an excellent opportunity to really work closely together to plan and deliver activities in this early stage. This is a pilot project and as such our learning is crucial; we will therefore be working closely as a team to ensure that strong and robust systems are in place from the outset for recording and analysing the activities, learning from them and acting effectively on that learning. During the first week together we spent time focusing on the partnership and the project, holding workshops delving further into the ins and outs of the project and thinking strategically about how we reach the most vulnerable and work with communities to have the greatest impact. We are learning from each other already which is another aim of the secondment and our partnership; indeed this is an important element of working in partnership across all Children in Crisis’ country programmes. This is an exciting project and an exciting partnership and I will look forward to updating all of you, our valued supporters, on our progress during my time here.


For more info. on our work in Sierra Leone, go here: http://www.childrenincrisis.org/our-work/sierra-leone

You can learn more about the REFLECT methodology here: http://www.reflect-action.org/