AFRICA: Francophone teacher training spreads

Following a successful pilot in four countries, a distance training programme for schoolteachers, jointly led by the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, is being extended in Africa.

The programme, known by its French acronym Ifadem (Initiative francophone pour la formation à distance des maîtres), is designed to improve the skills of French language teachers and combines written resources, multimedia and the internet.

The pilot took place between 2008 and 2010, when it was followed by more than 2,000 school teachers in Benin, Burundi and Madagascar, as well as Haiti, most of them working in rural areas.

Results so far have been positive, says the AUF. In Benin and Burundi, where the experimentation stage has ended, assessors found the impact was "visible on the ground, not only through practices in the classroom but also in opening up to modernisation that initiation to computers and the internet constituted".

In 2010, 557 teachers in Benin and 627 in Burundi took the course with a success rate of over 90% in their final evaluations.

In Burundi, the first country to complete the experimental stage, an agreement to continue Ifadem has been signed between the education ministry and AFD, the French development agency. The first stage represents a total of EUR1.8 million (US$2.5 million), of which the AFD will contribute EUR1.4 million, and AUF and OIF the rest.

In Benin an agreement has been struck between the finance ministry and the AFD for new funds for the programme.

Meanwhile, in Madagascar, following recent political upheaval, the programme has been "redefined", said the AUF; project leaders "have chosen to pursue their activities with care. Content production will continue and if the necessary conditions are fulfilled the experiment will be concluded but be scaled down to just one place", according to the agency.

In Haiti, the catastrophic earthquake in January 2010 and its aftermath meant Ifadem's pilot phase could not be completed on schedule, said AUF. But activities were continuing with training materials and development of two digital sites, and teacher training should begin in August.

Now the partners are planning to extend the programme to more countries, and an agreement for its introduction was signed last week with the Republic of Congo. According to Fasozine of Ouagadougou, 600 teachers in Katanga province will initially follow the nine-month Ifadem course.

Other African countries in line to adopt Ifadem are Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali and the Central African Republic, and preliminary inquiries are due to begin there later this year.

* A conference on "Universities, Citizenship and Performance; How to strengthen the social link", was held this month in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, to mark the 50th anniversary of the AUF.

Attended by more than 400 academics and students from francophone universities in Africa and the Indian Ocean, it launched a call for a redefinition of the roles of the university, teachers and students; the need to rethink the curriculum to educate responsible, enterprising students active in society; and for universities to take the initiative in promoting social dialogue.