Access to quality education remains a barrier for many youth around the world today. Despite progress, the numbers remain staggering - in 2011, 57 million children were not enrolled in primary school and 64 million were not enrolled in secondary school. Though it is not just about access - an estimated 250 million children worldwide are not able to read and write by grade four. Young girls are being particularly left behind. In developing countries, nearly 1 in 4 young women have not completed their primary schooling.
Along with our partners and allies around the world, WUSC is working toward a future where all youth are able to learn in safe and supportive environments, gain access to meaningful employment and actively participate in the development of their communities. Last week, we had the opportunity to take stock of these global efforts, identify emerging trends and discuss promising innovations for education along with over 3,000 of our peers from 100 countries at the 2015 Annual Conference of the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) in Washington, DC.
“For me, this conference is an eye-opener: a chance to visit an interesting place for a couple of days, an opportunity to interact with education academics, policy makers and development practitioners from all over the world with wonderful ideas, innovative projects and broader perspectives.” - Darius Isaboke, WUSC-Nairobi
During the week-long event, NGOs and consulting firms such as WUSC, CARE, Plan International, World Education, FHI360 and Creative Associates presented on best practices and lessons learned from their programs and research. Donors such as USAID, UNICEF, UNGEI and The World Bank presented on findings from recent evaluations, their theories of change and future directions of programming. Academics, Master’s and PhD candidates presented on their research spanning the globe and nearly every possible facet of international education.
On Sunday, Ellyn Floyd, Girls Education Specialist and acting Director of WUSC’s Kenya Equity in Education Project (KEEP), Darius Isaboke, KEEP Project Manager, and Tom Oindo, Project Director at Windle Trust Kenya, presented a 3-hour workshop on improving learning outcomes for girls in refugee and host communities. The workshop provided an opportunity for WUSC and dozens of other participants working in similar contexts to delve deeply into the challenges of delivering education programs in the refugee camps of Dadaab and Kakuma, as well as the opportunities for innovation that can help overcome the challenges.
But more than just sharing information about our own programs, the WUSC team took this unique opportunity to learn from the experiences and research of others. Tom got great insight from an Egyptian girl child education project that uses a mixture of embedding role models in the community and successful female role models with similar backgrounds not necessarily living within the targeted communities. Christa McMillin, Manager of WUSC’s Government of Canada-funded Teacher Certification and Accreditation of Teacher Training Institutions in Afghanistan project (TCAP), learned about teacher certification and distance learning in Indonesia and teacher professional development in Saudi Arabia, sparking new ideas for the work WUSC is doing with the Afghan Ministry of Education. And Ellyn participated in a side meeting for grant recipients convened by the Girls’ Education Challenge. A key topic of discussion at the meeting was sustainability. Sustainability for KEEP is about changing community attitudes about girls’ education through innovative activities, including radio campaigns and mobile cinema. It was useful to discuss what sustainability means for different projects in different contexts.
“I established very useful contacts with so many people of diverse backgrounds in the education sector I would have never been able to meet in one single forum including academics, donors, researchers, government representatives, students and implementing agencies.” - Tom Oindo, Windle Trust Kenya
For both Tom and Darius, participating in a memorial to Professor Ali Mazrui, a Kenyan scholar, was a powerful experience. Darius said he was touched by Professor Mazrui’s humility and how he persistently advocated for an all-inclusive world. Tom said “It made me proud to be a Kenyan. And to be working in the education sector to contribute towards transforming African society positively.”
Back in Ottawa, our minds are overflowing with information, our pockets are overflowing with business cards and we are itching to apply these learnings to our own projects; to connect our colleagues with people we have met; and to discuss the possible applications of the research and programming ideas we heard about to future initiatives at WUSC. CIES 2016 is in Vancouver next March and we look forward to participating again next year and seeing an even greater representation of our Canadian members and partners!