We love this address by First Lady Michelle Obama. Not only is she an advocate for giving girls around the world the quality education they deserve. She absolutely understand that such efforts must go hand-in-hand with creating safe environments in the classroom, school and community.
The First Lady of the US also talked about the shift in thinking that international partners need to adopt – to see families and communities less as barriers but instead as a source of solution. She points out the hypocrisy, or at least the disconnect, between a discourse on community mobilization and empowering local leadership, and what actually happens a lot of times. She acknowledges that involving community is often not the central part of organization’s programmatic work. And it’s risky, as we may not see eye-to-eye with local leaders, donor expectations (and cycles) as well as our instinct to preserve a good reputation, makes it hard to do really difficult work, which is also oftentimes inefficient.
And at the end, hard work is, well, hard, and also resource intensive. And it requires empathic staff who are willing to lead from the side and take cues from local folks. It also takes much patience to work through misunderstandings or simple miscommunications.
We know that having the community’s support behind the girls in every aspect of their lives, not just in science and education, is of utmost importance if these young women are to succeed.
We’ve been patient in building these relationships, in nurturing them, in repairing them as necessary, and we are grateful to begin to see the result of our labor. As the saying goes, If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
For our girls’ sake. We will go slow. So they can go far.
Increasing the quality of teaching is one of the main objectives of the Girls Science Exploratory Initiative. We tried to model the type of interactive and engaged learning that we hope teachers will adopt. By seeing how our trainer structured hands-on activities, encouraged movement for learning, facilitated small group discussions and reflections with ~45 adults, teachers see that it is possible for them to do the same thing, certainly with the smaller 15-student science exploratory clubs, but even in their classrooms of 50-80.
The training had three main goals.
- Transforming teachers into designers of learning experiences
Introduction to the learning cycle and questioning techniques to generate meaningful discussion
- Creating inclusive classrooms, with special attention to gender responsive pedagogy
Teachers examined practices in the school, classroom and community the limited girls’ participation in society and learning. They were also introduced to Carol Dweck’s theory of mindset. We also provided examples of female scientists from sub-Saharan Africa to break the gender myth and to inspire.
- Empowering teachers to facilitate and create practical activities in science (and other subjects)
By introducing a sequence of simple tools and hands-on activities in a variety of topics, and sharing and brainstorming what can be effectively used as substitutes for more traditional equipment, teachers develop mental and manual facility with practical learning, and begin to see their surroundings as sources of materials.
Our focus for this project was implementation and dissemination of existing resources. We heavily relied on the amazing handbooks created by Shika na Mikono that addresses science teaching in resource-poor contexts, the NPASS professional development materials for after school science facilitators, the materials developed by SeedKit at Wellesley College, the FAWE handbook on gender responsive pedagogy.
Check back as we develop additional posts with more details on how we addressed each of the goals of the training. Here’s one for the SeedKit.
45 teachers from 11 schools in 4 towns.
3 days, 756 hours of discussion and experiential learning.
15 hands-on STEM activities.
Teachers had time to explore, investigate and experience activities in topics ranging from electricity, magnetism, chemistry and close looking.
180 personal and school goals created
Each teacher created 4 goals for the school year. This included specific and general pledges to incorporate practical lessons, identify local resources, request teaching blocks for science, establish after school girls science clubs, and becoming advocates for girls’ education in their schools and classrooms.
See more photos of the training here.
Excitement, curiosity, confidence from the girls, and encouragement from the adults to stay in school and do great things filled the air with promise at the Durbar, a ceremony and celebration to shine a light on girls’ participation in Science and Technology. The event was reported in Ghana News, Modern Ghana, myjoyonline, and on UTV. Wow!
The African Women Advocacy Project feels extremely fortunate to be welcomed by a community in which girls are encouraged to participate fully and excel in learning, especially in science , technology and engineering; where they are motivated to pursue their dreams, to go far.
This community includes parents, teachers, district directors, the municipal assembly, and the Queen Mother of Pokuase, whose granddaughter is in the science exploratory clubs. It also includes women in science, from our Chairwoman Professor Mrs. Esi Awuah, an accomplished environmental engineer and Vice Chancellor of the University of Energy and Natural Resources, and Reverend Joana Koateng,a biochemist and the science coordinator for the Ghana Education Service, as well as college women like Ms. Keziah George from the Creativity Group at the University of Ghana.
Enjoy these photos and click on the links above to learn more about the day’s events. Many thanks again to Country Manager Petrine Addae who orchestrated this exciting day!
A brief musing from board member and lead trainer Dr. Connie Chow.
It was Monday morning at 9 am in early August. School had only ended the Thursday before. The next day (Friday), we
dragged invited our teachers from the 6 schools in Pokuase to bring their 130+ students to the St. Sylvanus Roman Catholic School for a 3-hour dress rehearsal – from demonstrations to dances to drama to a debate to guest introductions.
The Durbar, celebrating girls in science, would last till 4 pm that Monday, because, well, speeches by important people from the high table. (No, not ALL of them spoke).
But before all that, before the teachers felt re-energized by the affirmations and excitement of the Durbar, they “wished to speak with me privately”.
They pulled me aside, and asked about the 3-day training we had planned.
“It starts tomorrow? How many days again? Does it really start at 9 am? What time does it end?”
“9 am to 5 pm”, I said. “We’ll feed you breakfast, lunch and snacks. And it will be fun”.
“Teachers from two other cities will join us,” hoping to inspire good behavior. But no.
“But some of us live very far. We haven’t had a break since school ended. The traffic will be very bad. We have to go home and cook dinner for our families. One of the new teachers is a friend of mine. She has to travel from Tema, almost two hours each way.”
Yes. Of course I had been self-centered, trying to pack as much in as possible since I have a limited time in Ghana. I had so much to share. But I forgot that these hardworking teachers had to take care of themselves. That I need to model empathy and build a caring community and an empowering learning environment.
So I listened and adapted. We did start at 9 (with a group arriving at 8:30 each day), shortened lunch, took out 1-2 small modules. The first two days ended at 4pm, and the last day at 3pm.
With board member Sheri Moore’s infectious joyfulness, the teachers started and ended each day with song.
We still covered a lot of ground. Everyone was engaged. There were lots of smiles.
So what did they say at the end?
“We should have accommodations next time so we can have more time for training”.
“This training should be longer”.
“The training should be held every term (3 months)”.
Noted. And I call that a win-win.