Southern Sudan: JRS targets key problems in primary schools
25 February 2011

A teacher in a primary school in Yei, Southern Sudan. JRS will now target key problems in primary education. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
“The centre of educational change is in the classroom.”

Juba, 21 February 2011 – Following external evaluations in three JRS projects in Southern Sudan last year, JRS will now focus on targeting key problems in primary education.

For the past years JRS has concentrated on constructing and renovating school buildings, providing learning materials, training teachers and promoting girls’ education. 

According to the evaluation report, key problems that need to be targeted now include the frequent absence of teachers at school; teachers who are present but don’t teach and limited teaching skills. According to the evaluation report, most pupils could neither read nor calculate when they finished their third year of primary education. 

Centre of change is the classroom

“The centre of educational change is in the classroom,” said Terry Allsop, the evaluator. “If training is to be effective the taught theory needs to be demonstrated and practiced, teachers need feedback and mentoring,” he added.

While JRS activities mostly cover theory and demonstration not much attention has been paid to practice, feedback and monitoring in the past. These, however, are the most important stages when transferring knowledge. 

A study from the National Centre for Research on Teacher Learning by the Michigan State University also proves that “…short term in-service workshops are an ineffective device to improve teaching practice. Even with extended and intensive support it was difficult for teachers to change their practice.” The study suggests that substantial changes in teaching practices are likely to occur only when teachers have extended, ongoing assistance that is grounded in classroom practice.” 

The most important person is the pupil

“We have to admit that our previous workshops for teachers did not have the direct impact on learning and teaching that we wanted them to have,” says Dr. Biryaho. 

Instead of holding further in-service workshops for teachers, JRS will now refocus its efforts on improving the teaching and learning skills of teachers, the achievements of the pupils and on developing appropriate learning materials for particular topics.

“We came to understand that the most important person in school development is the learner,” said a government official from Western Equatoria State. “Any activity that does not improve learning will not be supported,” he added. 

School development teams, consisting of JRS staff and staff from the ministry of education will be formed and regularly meet with teachers after school to supervise and discuss the progress made. “During the pilot phase the new approach will be implemented at a selected number of schools. If it works well, it will be extended to more schools,” said Dr. Biryaho.

JRS staff and government officials from Central and Western Equatoria States recently met in Gulu, northern Uganda, to discuss the findings of the evaluations and agree on a new strategy.
When JRS presented its recommendations for a new strategy to the staff of the ministry of education for further discussion it found broad acceptance. “They agreed that it would have a positive impact on classroom teaching and learning,” Dr. Biryaho said. “The new approach will be sustainable since the school development teams consist of people from the respective school or area and will not need external support,” said a representative of Magwi County. 

Press Contact Information
Angelika Mendes
+254 20 3874152