SETting up a New Direction, March, 2019


The key is not in spending time, but in investing it.     Stephen R. Covey

Prudent as they are with donor dollars, in similar manner the SET directors and associates use time resourcefully. During a one week Togo visit in March, 2019  director Simon Carette and associate Serge Novignon Akpagnonite launched SET’s new direction:  to improve the levels of literacy among primary students by investing in teacher training.   Making best use of their short Togo visit involved hours of planning.

Serge Novignon Akpagnonite at SET teachers’ workshop in 2018 with a future SET student

Their first priority was to hire an educational mentor for SET teachers. At a SET workshop held in August, 2018 (See “SET for Change” on SET website) this was the teachers’ leading request.  Preliminary work involved drawing up a job description that was advertised in Togo, and doing telephone interviews from Canada with 13 of the 35 applicants. 

Of the five candidates on the short-list Simon and Serge interviewed in Togo, Jean-Paul Kodjo Mlope’s credentials best matched SET’s requirements.  Along with specialization in teaching literacy skills, Jean-Paul instructs in French-language secondary school education at the Togo Normal (teacher training) School.   Before becoming a professor there, Jean-Paul supervised pre-school and primary teachers in the SET schools’ region for ten years.

Simon Carette and newly-hired SET educational mentor, Jean-Paul Kodjo Mlope,  in downtown Lomé

“We hit the jackpot with Jean-Paul’s hire,” Simon says enthusiastically.

The responsibilities for Jean-Paul’s mentoring include observing teachers in their classrooms. His reflections on their teaching will form the basis for enhancing their skills in small hands-on workshops.  Innovative processes will be introduced by Jean-Paul to help teachers self-monitor their teaching.  He will share and instruct them in new educational activities around literacy and French-language learning.

Because SET directors wish to use the first year to test their new direction as a pilot project, Jean-Paul’s plans involve six of the thirteen SET schools.  In this pilot project he will alternate his time between groups of three schools in a half-time position.  Based on a comparison of results of testing done in 2018 and again in 2020, decisions will be made on SET’s future actions.  

As part of the commitment to teaching SET has recognized the importance of topping up the small salaries of the intern teachers in SET schools. As Jean-Paul will make the payments that help ensure a continuity of teaching he, Serge and Simon established a comprehensive list of these teachers.  Specific SET bank accounts were opened in Lomé making financial transfers more efficient.

Jean-Paul Kodjo Mlope at work in his office at Togo Normal School

Making the best of any investment involves establishing relationships with the people involved.  Building strong relationships does not necessarily take money, but certainly, always time.

On left, Dieudonné LeBon and on right, Elvire Assogbavi, SET’s Lomé volunteers with Serge Novignon Akpagnonite

Before this trip to Togo, Serge developed connections with two Togolese, both Canadian- university educated. Dieudonné LeBon, a logistics specialist and Elvire Assogbavi, a Human Resources practitioner who both volunteer their time in Lomé for SET.  Elvire helped SET meet the Togolese conditions for hiring Jean-Paul.  Dieudonné made it possible to have a Lomé address for SET, a government requirement for any NGO in Togo.  Both volunteers will go on assisting SET with the challenges and opportunities arising in Togo.

Among relationships within the Ministry of Education, Serge and Simon met with almost all the senior education personnel in the Maritime region.  Most senior within the education hierarchy, the Director of Regional Education held a private meeting with Simon and Serge, clearing the way officially for the new direction. 

“He was very enthusiastic about SET’s vision to teach the teachers and the upcoming program.  He promised us his full support,” Serge reports.

Having made a broad base of Togolese relationships, Serge and Simon have ensured SET will continue its vision of helping children “receive a quality education that will allow them to blossom in all dimensions of their lives.” (SET Mission Statement)