4 April 2018
The story of Teacher Education in Sub Saharan Africa (TESSA) in Zambia illustrates the advantages of ‘playing the long game’ in development work, the role of serendipity, and what can be achieved when Open University (OU) functions work together.
When Bob Moon, now OU Emeritus Professor of Education, brought together a consortium of teacher educators representing 14 institutions across nine African countries in 2005, the University of Zambia (UNZA) was one of its members. By 2008, after a series of writing workshops, and a great deal of work, the TESSA OER were available on the website in English, Kiswahili, Arabic and French, and had been versioned for 10 countries. The OER are designed to support teacher learning, and in 2009 the OU won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education, for this contribution. The University of Zambia was responsible for contextualising the so called pan-African English materials for Zambia by changing some of the names and places referred to, and adapting some of the suggested classroom activities to reflect Zambian national priorities.
In 2009, the OU recruited a consultant, Gareth Dart, to undertake some TESSA work as part of a Commonwealth of Learning funded project. Gareth happened to be at a funeral in South Wales with his wife (a Zambian) and in conversation with one of the other attendees learnt about the Zambian Open Community schools - schools that are outside the Government system, set up and run by local communities when the nearest Government school is too far away. So when he was in Zambia, Gareth took some TESSA materials to an NGO which supports these schools - Zambian Open Community Schools (ZOCS) - and met Peter Sinyangwe who worked with education in Zambia. Peter was quite busy at the time, and agreed to look at the material in order to make Gareth go away! But when Peter engaged with the resources he could see how useful they would be for the Community schools.
Working at first with Gareth, and then on his own, Peter continued to promote TESSA through his work with ZOCS and then Creative Associates. So when, in 2016, the OU secured another major grant for TESSA, Zambia seemed an obvious place to start. Over the last 18 months, Peter has created the opportunities for the TESSA team to meet Ministry officials; we have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Zambia Government; created a curriculum map, linking the TESSA resources to the Revised Zambian School curriculum and supported over 400 Zambian teacher educators in taking part in the TESSA MOOC on FutureLearn in November 2017. Last year we were successful in securing a further £1.3m from the Scottish Government to integrate TESSA into a national school-based inservice training programme, and that work is now underway.
A chance conversation with Bob Moon and an impulsive expression of interest in Secondary Science led to my own involvement. The work is demanding, involving time away from home, too many long flights and many frustrations – nothing is predictable in Africa! But it is also an enormous privilege. I have a network of inspiring colleagues and, as a result of the MOOC and various associated WhatsApp groups, find myself regularly supporting TESSA activities in rural Zambia. It certainly focuses the mind, answering technical questions about running workshops via WhatsApp!
Colleagues in the OU's International Development Office (IDO) who have worked in the NGO sector, often comment on the added-value that the academic contribution brings to educational development work. For the TESSA academic team, IDO brings expertise in project management, a positive ‘can-do’ attitude in the face of the inevitable difficulties and set-backs, and a creative approach to solving problems. It’s a great partnership and long may it last!
Kris Stutchbury, Senior Lecturer in Teacher Education, Academic Director of TESSA, WELS
Teacher Educators in Kitwe College of Education getting familiar with TESSA OE
To find out more about our work, or to discuss a potential project, please contact:
International Development Research Office
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The Open University
T: +44 (0)1908 858502