Improving Christian Education in West Africa

Interest in Christian education has increased in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, alongside rising interest in Christianity.

But in many areas Christian teachers and administrators have had little training on what it means to practice their faith in the classroom. That’s where Christian Reformed World Missions steps in.

As missionary Sheila Dykstra travels throughout West Africa—holding teacher-training workshops, meeting with Christian school associations, and mentoring teachers and school administrators—she sees the challenges that teachers and schools face.

“There’s a low value placed on teaching and teachers, so very few people want to be teachers,” says Dykstra. “Those who do end up teaching are often people who couldn’t do anything else or are doing it until they have something else to do.”

Many teachers in West Africa still use teaching methods begun under British colonial rule: their students learn by rote, and physical discipline is not uncommon. And although teachers may work in a Christian school, they have not always thought about how their faith impacts their classrooms. World Missions’ new teacher-training curriculum, Educational Care, addresses those challenges.

The six-part curriculum leads teachers through topics such as biblical worldview, learning styles, and discipline. Teachers reflect on the material together, study applicable Scripture, and create action plans for what they’re going to do differently.

One of the biggest focuses of the training is on people’s value in Christ. “If you believe that your children are image-bearers of Christ, then that affects how you treat them,” Dykstra says.

Mrs. Ego Salami is discipling differently after learning more about caring for her students. “I actually realized I had been unfair to my kids. Instead of scolding and shouting [at] them, I should have trained and prepared them so well to behave in a mature way,” she says. “I asked God to forgive me. I have learnt a new way of loving [my students], and I believe God will give me the grace to love them more.”

The first four Educational Care modules are complete and ready to be used. The final ones are scheduled to be written, tested, and ready for distribution by the end of 2012. CRWM and Worldwide Christian Schools USA (WWCS USA) have entered an agreement for WWCS USA to distribute the curriculum worldwide.

Along with developing teacher-training initiatives like Educational Care, World Missions sends and supports missionaries in international schools. Several career missionaries teach at seminaries in places such as Bangladesh, Costa Rica, and the Philippines. CRWM also offers support-raising assistance to partner teachers in international high schools and elementary schools, and it has several short-term volunteer opportunities.

For more on the Educational Care program, see www.crwm.org/educationalcare.

About the Author

Sarah Van Stempvoort is a writer with Christian Reformed World Missions.
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