The overarching goal of the GEMS Education Program is to support teacher learning and help educators develop meaningful and rigorous learning environments for young people in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal, South Sudan.
We have begun to move toward this objective through small scale pilot projects in teacher training, support for on-going teacher education, and school improvement projects. The intention is to build teacher capacity and establish a core set of successful practices on a small scale in collaboration with local partners that can later help inform teacher development practices at the state level.
Building stronger school communities through teacher learning
GEMS has sent teacher trainers from Teachers College, Columbia University to work with two cohorts of teachers in the past year. Teachers from Comboni Primary school in Gordheim and Majak Akoon Primary School in Mabel have developed skills in active learning, curriculum design and collaborative problem solving. For most teachers, this is the only teacher training they have received. The next intensive training institute is scheduled for May 2015.
More than half of the primary school teachers we train have yet to complete secondary school. Many lack the content knowledge needed to build quality instruction. Moreover, few teachers have strong proficiency in English, the language of instruction after 3rd grade. Given that all curricular materials are in English, teachers struggle to understand the textbooks or use them to teach effectively. For this reason, GEMS is currently providing scholarships to 13 teachers to attend secondary school and 13 teachers for intensive English classes.
Bicycles for Teachers
Many teachers walk 1-2 hours each day to come to school. These treks are particularly difficult during the rainy season. GEMS works to provide bicycles to teachers in order to improve teacher attendance and give them more time for planning.
Pre-school Feeding Program
The school day at Comboni Primary school is already abridged due to the absence of a school feeding program. Even though school dismisses at 1:00 pm, the pre-school students in particular struggle to make it through the school day. GEMS supports the daily provision of porridge daily to the approximately 250 students in pre-school and first grade.
Health and sanitation are key components of a successful learning environment. At Comboni Primary School, GEMS has provided funding for a hand-washing station by the latrines, the repair of the hand pump so students and the surrounding community can have access to water, and for chemicals to help maintain the sanitation of the latrines.
Repair of School Facilities
GEMS has facilitated the repair of doors and chalkboards at both Comboni and Majak Akoon Primary schools. Doors are critical for keeping out goats and other animals which damage school materials.
In order to improve girls’ school attendance, GEMS provides sanitary napkins to the schools. Female teachers distribute the pads to girls and work to educate them about hygiene and self-care.