Team Belgium at work for SDG 4 – Uganda

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In the midst of one of the world’s worst health crises in recent history, the Belgian Embassy and the Belgian organizations VVOB and Enabel joined forces to co-chair the Education Development Partners group in Uganda. “Team Belgium” has assumed the one-year responsibility of strategically guiding this forum for dialogue and advice on education in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Skills, teacher training and digitization were top priorities.

The Education Development Partners (EDP) group in Uganda is a platform where donors and technical partners active in education discuss, collaborate and make recommendations on education issues. The platform serves as an advisory body to the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES). Government sector strategies, plans and policies and the projects and enterprises of EDP members in general are examined in terms of what they (might) mean for education – both in terms of access and quality.

Each year a different member takes over the presidency. The Belgian Embassy, ​​VVOB – education for development and Enabel partnered for work from June 2020 to June 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and global school closures. Learners in Uganda saw their education completely disrupted from March to October 2020. Schools then reopened partially year by year, only to close completely again – temporarily – in June 2021. Tough times to say the least, but other members of the EDP ​​applauded ‘Team Belgium’s leadership’ in discussions on the response to COVID-19.

Members of Education Development Partners in Uganda:

  • Bilateral partners: Belgium, France, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Sweden

  • Development agencies: Enabel, FCDO / UK Aid, Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), USAID

  • United Nations agencies: ILO, UNCDF, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP

  • International organizations: African Development Bank, European Union (DG ECHO), VVOB, World Bank

1 YEAR, 3 PRIORITIES

Diplomat Alexandre Brecx, deputy head of cooperation at the Belgian embassy in Kampala, personified the presidency of Team Belgium: “The EDP group as a whole has shown real leadership by helping the Ministry of Education and Sports Uganda to respond quickly to the pandemic. Donors and implementers quickly aligned their support and interventions. This played an important role in handling the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. “

“Learners have suffered – and still are – the short and long term consequences of these school closures. The situation is extremely worrying. Years of development and cooperation are at stake. At the same time, this crisis has brought development partners closer together. We have broadened our range of stakeholders and improved coordination with the ministry.

In addition to the necessary COVID-19 responses, Team Belgium also took the lead in the validation process of the education and sport sector analysis and discussions on new funding opportunities for the Global Partnership for Education. The Team Belgium star shines the most, however, on the themes of competence, teacher training and digitization, which have been the chair’s three priority areas throughout its one-year mandate.

ON THE COMPETENCE AND TRAINING OF TEACHERS

Uganda and Belgium share the important ambition to prepare Ugandan youth for the skills of tomorrow – and to attract and retain education professionals who can achieve this ambition. The Ugandan teaching workforce must grow to respond to the population explosion, and teachers must be equipped with the appropriate pedagogical skills to enable children and young people to thrive in their academic and professional careers.

To achieve this, very ambitious curricular innovations are the topic of conversation in the city: education based on skills, life skills, project work, education for entrepreneurship, linking the system education with the world of work and digital literacy are all priorities of the MoES. Team Belgium has supported these innovations for many years through:

  • the Teaching Agriculture in Practice program of VVOB, the “new kid on the block”;

  • the Teacher Training Education project and support for the implementation of the “Skilling Uganda” strategy (“Support to Skilling Uganda”) by Enabel.

This latest multi-donor “Support to Skilling Uganda” program is co-financed by various members of the EDP – Belgium, Ireland, the EU and GIZ – for a total amount of 30 million euros. Belgium takes the lead with 22 million; Team Belgium designs solutions and weighs on political dialogue to advance the access and quality of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Uganda. Since 2014, “Support to Skilling Uganda” has been spearheading solutions for formal and non-formal access to the supply of certified skills in response to the government’s 2012 TVET strategy and policy. Recently adopted TVET. The TVET Council is responsible for the implementation of this policy and adopts a skills approach led by the private sector, for which Support to Skilling Uganda offers solutions.

Seeing this strong involvement, Team Belgium chairs the EDP technical working group on Skilling through Enabel. The working group ensures that skills information flows smoothly to and from the MoES, creates a platform for dialogue among EDP members on skills and organizes regular reviews and input for formulation politics. Other working groups are dedicated to basic education and digitization.

“Team Belgium invests in quality initial and in-service teacher training, as well as teacher training infrastructure,” says VVOB Country Program Manager for Uganda, Toon De Bruyn (pictured here at the far left, next to 2019 Global Teacher Prize winner Peter Tabichi, middle). “We pilot and adapt solutions to equip newly graduated high school teachers and instructors with the skills to prepare for the future. “

“VVOB is the only member investing in the training of future TVET instructors in Uganda. We drive solutions for improving work-based learning, exam school practices and business creation in instructor and teacher education.

ON DIGITIZATION

As chairman, Team Belgium put digitization firmly on the agenda, which was crucial in helping the ministry to put TVET and teacher policies into practice. And although digitization has been an important priority for Belgian Development Cooperation for many years, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for increasing access to teaching and learning materials and online facilitation. .

Enabel’s popular teacher training sandbox is exemplary. The project experimented with EdTech to ensure continuity of learning for future teachers while their teacher training colleges remained closed. Different e-learning subjects and training using open and free digital tools have been developed and deployed. The project also aimed to ensure virtual communication between colleges and students, pilot new methods of results-based online management and improve the skills of teachers in the 21st century.

“We have also set up a system of mutual assistance between the teachers of each of our partner colleges to function as a helpdesk,” explains Virginie Hallet, coordinator of the Teacher Training Education project at Enabel. “We also organized community of practice sessions and ICT masterclasses, presenting new digital tools. And we were pleased to find in a study that our efforts paid off: almost 80% of teachers used the portal with learning materials and 60% relied on the help desk at some point. , almost all finding it useful in facilitating e-learning. “

FROM TEAM BELGIUM TO TEAM EUROPE

VVOB and Enabel’s collaborative efforts for teacher education, skills and digitization in Uganda are only just beginning: sharing space in MoES offices, supporting annual teacher education and training symposia, developing toolkits for active teaching and learning and for continuing professional development… are just some of the first joint initiatives. The unique expertise and the privileged position that VVOB and Enabel bring to Belgian development cooperation efforts make Team Belgium a solid and appreciated partner of the education sector in Uganda.

“And given the difficult times ahead, we will need this internal cohesion within Team Belgium, but also within the EDP group as a whole and externally with the ministry,” said diplomat Brecx. “Despite the challenges facing the education sector, we have had a unique opportunity to better rebuild, rethink the education system and make it more resilient. The presidency of Team Belgium has been stimulating, fascinating and enriching at the same time.

Team Belgium will remain as co-chairman for the next six months to support the new chairman, Ireland, a like-minded partner, and to ensure that the initiatives of the past year continue to have a place in the spotlight. ‘agenda. “I hope that this spirit of collaboration will take us from ‘Team Belgium’ to ‘Team Europe’! Alexandre Brecx concludes.


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