Dear Friends of Support.Education.Togo:
New Developments for SET
One thing we can say about our Board of Directors – they don’t SETtle for the status quo. As the Communications member of the SET team, I am excited about conveying new directions for SET’s work in Togo.
Gratitude for Your Support
First, let me express our profound thanks for your support. As you know Togo is one of the poorest countries in the world. On our visits we have seen families crowded into single-room huts. Their one daily meal consists of starchy porridge. Without books or toys children delight in the gift of a soccer ball shared with many others. Schooling, if children have the meagre funds to attend, often occurs in “apotames” or primitive thatched lean-tos.
Thanks to your help more than 2500 Togolese children attend one of 14 SET schools. In these buildings children sit at solid desks without being overcrowded or wet. Their concentration intensifies without vermin, insects or snakes falling from the roofs.
Learning in SET schools
BUT, the question SET directors ask themselves: Is having a solid school building enough? From its beginning SET directors have believed the quality of education corresponds to students’ ability “to flourish in their lives.”
In 2018 directors decided to measure the quality of education in the SET schools.
To do so they connected with two Togolese-born and -taught Canadian educators: Serge Novignon Akpagnonite and Angèle Dadagan Aklah. Serge works as a vice-principal within the Windsor francophone school district and Angèle travels through a large francophone catchment area of southwestern Ontario as a literacy coach. Both teachers have strong feelings about the importance of improving educational opportunities in Togo.
In August 2018 Serge and Angèle accompanied SET directors Anne and Simon Carette on the directors’ yearly review of SET schools. The two educators volunteered to facilitate a needs assessment workshop with SET teachers and principals. Their visit also involved extensive testing on students’ literacy.
Implications of Interviews and Testing
Results pointed very clearly to the direction the SET Board needed to take.
First: SET teachers received the possibility of workshops on educational methods with enormous enthusiasm. They committed to utilize those methods in SET schools. They had no previous experience with such professional development.
Second: Dismal results emerged regarding student literacy. Through interviews, observation and testing, Serge and Angèle discovered grade 1 students barely recognized the alphabet. Student attendance rates were high, but outside of rote memorization, learning levels were low. So low that hopes for the benefits of education become pipe dreams.
SET’s Challenges for the Future
With such results the question of where next to take SET became imperative. Building schools and providing a safe environment continue to make sense, but if the outcomes become the equivalent of day care, then this does not amount to responsible management of donor contributions.
The New SET Path: Teaching the Teachers
Backed by Serge and Angèle’s professional advice and first-hand knowledge of Togo, the SET Board decided to SET a new path: Teaching the teachers. By building structures of knowledge and teaching methods versus bricks and mortar, quality learning will be more likely.
To accomplish this major goal a Togolese educational consultant will be employed within the next year. Serge and Angèle will travel to Togo to hire and train this professional to work in all 14 SET schools. Once back in Canada they will provide ongoing support to him/her.
In 2019 SET directors will travel to Togo to gather first impressions of this new direction in SET schools.
“If you can’t see the need, then you need to change the way you look at it.”
As the late SET president and director, Bob Barclay said, “If you can’t see the need, then you need to change the way you look at it.”
Robert Barclay died in July 2018. The Robert Preston Barclay School in Adokpoe, Togo was completed in July 2018 to honour his enormous contribution to the children of Togo. We believe that he would have applauded the changing direction of SET to do what needs to be done.
Thanks to the generosity of donors, funds remain viable enough to raise literacy levels of the 2500 pupils attending SET schools in Togo. Thank you for your continued support, your unflinching trust and your motivating enthusiasm. For news of the ongoing developments in SET please refer to the SET website at www.supporteducationtogo.org.