|Fanta, Binta and Mama, all aged 7, actively participate in a reading session at a 'Learning Along Borders' school in Pamelap, Guinea.|
By Michèle Akan Badarou
CONAKRY, Guinea, 26 April 2012 – At a new school in the town of Pamelap, students are benefiting from the ‘Learning Along Borders’ project.
The ‘Learning Along Borders’ programme – developed with the government and with funding from the Netherlands – aims to improve education in communities that have been affected by conflict, particularly communities where tensions may still exist.
The project is building eight schools, and is providing these schools with equipment, including furniture, school supplies and textbooks, as well as training for teachers. With support from several NGO partners, these schools use an innovative pedagogical approach to promote tolerance and dialogue and to foster relationships with communities on both sides of the border.
An active learning strategy
As soon as visitors cross the threshold of the classroom, they notice the position of the desks. The desks do not face the teacher, as they traditionally would, but are instead arranged in a square, allowing the children to face each other in groups of eight. This use of space promotes the sharing of ideas; students are encouraged to exchange and reflect on each other’s thoughts.
Over the course of the year, students study language and communication, mathematics, physical education, civics, history and geography, arts and culture, science, technology, and other topics. Most learning is conducted in groups, with each group being led by a ‘tutor’ chosen from among the students.
“Children learn more easily with one of their own than with an adult,” said Madame Camara Touré, the class’s teacher.
It is all part of an ‘active learning’ strategy, in which children are engaged and encouraged to participate and express themselves during class.
“This method of learning has turned out to be more effective than asking students to come up to the board,” Madame Camara said. She says she enjoys how her role has changed. Now she acts as a facilitator, stimulating the children’s development, listening to their ideas, and enabling them to use the knowledge they have acquired within their communities.
One of the students, 7-year-old Mama Aissata Touré, expressed joy at attending these classes because, as she said, “I learn.”
A vision of the future
Since the start of the ‘Learning Along Borders’ project – and the affiliated ‘Friends of Children, Friends of Girls’ schools – almost 8,000 children have experienced active learning in six finished schools. Two more schools are being built.
The education secretary of Forécariah Prefecture, Monsieur Souleymane Kaba, said, “This project has come just at the right time in order to integrate and keep each child, including refugee and displaced children, within a diversified and adapted education system.”
He added, “The project can be a solution to the question of quality to which Guinea’s schools are confronted. Their concept is based on the promotion of the values of peace, modernism, openness to other cultures on both sides of the borders, and our communities, both local and refugee, take part in the life and management of the school. This is as much a vision as that which today’s politicians have for the development of the country.”