Where staff, especially those that have lived through long periods of conflict, have had no access to further education, we support them to develop their knowledge and expertise using distance education methods. This is particularly important in conflict areas where human resources have been depleted, and professional standards in basic services such as education need to be raised. Our policy of recruiting and training national staff with specialist knowledge has enhanced the reputation of AET and distinguishes us from other agencies. Our AET staff help to build the capacity of government staff, education administrators such as head teachers, and local NGOs, in all areas of education, from examination development to adult literacy. Our external specialists work under their direction, drawing from internationally recognised best practice in education and making it available and practicable in areas affected by instability and conflict.
This kind of education enables students to analyse problems for themselves, and take up new opportunities. We apply this active and participatory approach to all our work, from exam setting and text book development, to in-service teacher training. We support student-centred methods, and ensure that educational content is culturally relevant, enabling debate around gender norms, around discrimination against marginalised people, and also around peace building.
‘It is never too late to learn’ is one of AET’s maxims and we try to show adult students that we have confidence in their ability to learn. Students learn reading, writing and mathematics, and learn how to use these new skills at work, in day to day living, and in local decision making. Knowing how to do these things is empowering for people, and does not just improve their quality of life, but allows them to participate more fully at community and national level.
“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.” – Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change
Part of our research is around understanding what motivates people and organisations to participate wholeheartedly in our programmes. We take into account factors such as the individual aspirations of teachers for promotion in the design of distance education courses, and the views of local communities who want education to be provided in two languages – an African language for effective learning of reading and writing when a child starts school and only speaks their own language, and English, seen as the language of success and prosperity. In short, whether we deliver our programmes through direct implementation by our staff, or in partnership with local NGOs and governments, we always seek to support local priorities.
We hope to increase national control of the education agenda through building staff and organisational capacity. Where possible, we share our direct programme experience (including school data) with governments so that they can, if they wish, feed it into their own writing of policy and guidelines. We aim to be completely transparent with governments, as well as local organisations and local people and the fact that our relationships are based on trust and respect, rather than financial dependency, makes it easier for us to enter into constructive and long term dialogue. For this to work well, it is essential that our staff are nationals of the country in which they work and AET is renowned for this.
Where we have demonstrated that our initiatives have been a success, we have found other agencies willing to find the technical and financial resources to scale up or continue programmes over the long term. One such example is the construction of girl-friendly spaces within schools, rather than looking for funding for the construction of whole schools. Sharing learning with others is vital for successful innovation, and AET endeavours to be generous with its information and experience through publication of documents and social media, as well as conferences with academic and NGO stakeholders. We are always happy to be contacted about our work. Our publications can be found in the ‘About Us’ section of this website.