Dr. Corinne Brion from the University of Dayton sends a letter about her recent experience working with school leaders in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
Neowongo! (Welcome in Mooré, one of the 59 dialects spoken in Burkina Faso, West Africa).
Tonight, I’m leaving Burkina Faso. I’m at Ouagadougou’s international airport reflecting on my experiences in the land of the ‘Incorruptible People.’ Burkina Faso is the size of Colorado and has approximately 19 million inhabitants. It’s a former French colony and like many countries in Africa gained its independence in 1960. Burkina Faso ranks 183 out of 188 on the Human Development index (which measures the capability of people to live long happy healthy lives, and to have access to education).
To better understand the educational needs of Burkina Faso, it’s important to take into consideration the following data. Burkina Faso’s literacy rate—defined as people over 15 years old who can read and write—is 36% (CIA, 2016) and 3.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is spent on education. Burkina Faso uses the French education model for all levels of education, unless the school is part of an international system. There are six levels of the elementary system exclusive of kindergarten (la maternelle). Kindergarten classes exist for children age three to six but they are mainly located in large cities and are under-developed.
The Education System in Burkina Faso (CIA, 2016)
|Language of Instruction
|Primary School||6 years of Primary
(CP1,CP2, CE1, CE2, CM1, CM2)
|Secondary School||4 years of Junior
(sixième, cinquième, quatrième and troisième)
3 years of Senior
(Seconde, Premiere, Terminale)
|Literacy Rate in %
(15-24 years old).
I’ve been fortunate to work part-time in Burkina Faso for the past 5 years. Our task here has been to build the capacity of school leaders. School administrators in Low-Fee Private Schools (LFPSs) rarely have any formal training and in most instances they are not educators. Because a training is as good as its material and trainers, a team from the University of San Diego developed contextualized research-based educational leadership materials in which adult learning theories are embedded; we train local school leaders, train local trainers through a Train the Trainers model (TOT) and conduct research (see our earlier posts: A Model for Leadership Training and the Missing Link on Learning Transfer.
This week, I was asked to oversee a three-day leadership training that focused on the Conditions for Learning (Table 2 outlines the topics covered during this leadership training). In order to enhance the
transfer of knowledge post training, we conduct all trainings using an active learning approach. Trainees participate in a case study, work in groups and spend time reflecting about their schools.
At the end of each day, participants also complete a School Development Plan or “Plan d’Action.”
The co-facilitators for the training were two Burkinabe colleagues who are still learning the materials and were working alongside a Ghanaian colleague and trainer. To find quality facilitators we work with local universities and schools. Our local-co-facilitators are carefully selected and are educators by training. Most of them are university professors in an educational leadership department. Each training is led by 2 facilitators who take turns between facilitating and being the lead and co-facilitating. We have developed Pedagogical Notes to outline the roles of the facilitator and co-facilitator. When potential facilitators first work with us, they come to the training and observe the entire training session. They also participate in daily debriefing meetings. If they remain interested in the work and content of the materials, they become co-facilitators the next time the training is offered and teach about 25% of the content. They are teamed up with an experience facilitator who can offer their support and feedback. Again, at the end of each day, there is a debriefing session that provides time for reflection. The second time a facilitator-in-training teaches, s/he will facilitate for approximately 50 % of the time. The third time a person teaches about 75% of the content and after that they become full-fledged facilitators. In addition to the daily debriefing and feedback sessions, the lead facilitator writes a feedback letter at the end of the training for his/her co-facilitator. To help with the letters and the language one should use in order to give constructive feedback, we developed a TOT guide containing sample letters, language that might be used, position descriptions as well as the selection process and the roles of both facilitators, co-facilitators and observers.
The Three Modules of the School Leadership Training: The Conditions for Learning
|Day 1: Module 1:
Title: Building a Culture of Learning
· Writing a mission statement.
· Creating an invitational school culture.
· Parents and families as partners.
|Day 2 morning: Module 2a:
Title: Health and Wellness
· Clean water.
· Disease prevention.
· Working with the community.
|Day 2 afternoon: Module 2b:
Title: Facilities and Safety
· School construction: indoors and outside.
· Acoustics and ventilation.
· Kitchen facilities
· School safety
|Day 3: Module 3:
Title: Teacher Recruitment, Induction and Professional Development
· Values and dispositions of quality teachers.
· Recruiting and hiring quality teachers.
· Teacher retention and development.
· Supporting teachers and staff.
This evening after three intense days of training, I feel content. Participants were excited about the content of the modules, they acquired practical ideas and tools to help them with their schools and they networked with each other. Our local trainers are progressing in their learning and I had the chance to meet some leaders who had attended the training three years ago. They told me that they continue to transfer the content of the modules to their schools. That is music to my ears!