by Mathieu Lacasse, Camara Education Learning Officer

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There are multiple definitions for what constitutes an Academy. In industrialised countries, they are often driven by the private sector or recognised as a society of distinguished scholars, artists or scientist that aims promoting and maintaining standards in its particular field. In Tanzania, the focus is more on uplifting communities and giving them the platform, support and capacity to participate in improving their own environments.

In iKnowledge Project, this constitutes of an innovative and entrepreneurial centre in each region called an iKnowledge Academy. This helps further support the role a school can play in community development through using ICT. This is based on a sustainable ICT in Education delivery model including proven training approaches and methodologies that has been designed and implemented in Tanzanian public primary schools by Camara Education in partnership with Avanti Communications and supported by the UK Space Agency.

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To select appropriate primary schools as iKnowledge Academies, the iKnowledge team conducted a survey of 200 schools across 25 regions in Tanzania. Using a complex selection criteria in order to find the best public primary school in a region to implement the Academy – while respecting funders’ and partners’ conditions and requests for participating schools, 25 schools were selected. When the project was initiated in selected academies, three modules were offered by the iKnowledge team: i) Educational Leadership; ii) ICT Skillbuilder for Teachers; and iii) Managing an Academy.

All three modules targeted different audience and had different outcomes, but they had in common the most important of  objectives: Sustainable and Quality Academies.

Initially, Educational Leadership training and ICT Skillbuilder for Teacher training was delivered by the iKnowledge team in the 25 participating academies across the regions – reaching 100 public primary schools. From the Teacher focused ICT training, 4 ICT champion teachers were identified to continue training to support managing an Academy. In each region, the 4 selected teachers, the Head teacher and Assistant Head teacher from the Academy and one District Education Officer, were invited to the iKnowledge Managing an Academy training.

For the selected participants, this training focused on an introductory to business plans for the academy, marketing strategy, managing sales and revenue along with a more in-depth session on managing and delivering training. Efforts were also made in terms of information and clarification of objectives, so as to reach out more effectively to primary teachers from neighboring schools as well as the community members.

Participants to the Managing an Academy course, Shinyanga.

Participants to the Managing an Academy course, Shinyanga.

During the training, participants developed the necessary competencies to run a sustainable academy. In terms of quality, they all discovered and registered to the Camara Learning Academy, an educational platform developed by Camara Education where courses in Swahili relative to the participants’ needs, in-depth explanations and handouts are provided. There are also several practical activities, in-line with the learning outcomes, for the learners to complete. The Camara Learning Academy is vital for this sustainable Academy solution, as trainers will be able to offer training in the Academies using the courses available on the learning platform. They will be able to register their own participants, participate to forum discussion, monitor learner’s progress and deliver certificates.

Participants defined what problems and challenges they wanted to address in their environments and how they would use the Camara Learning Academy to develop solutions for local needs. Camara Education played a role in providing capacity building in areas of need as identified by the Academies.

Presentation of Managing an Academy Certificates, Shinyanga.

Presentation of Managing an Academy Certificates, Shinyanga.

The Academy approach has at times been challenging for our government partners who are not familiar with such a grassroots approach to learning and community development, and tend to work with centralized decision-making and government-driven applications. Now in the new era of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 4 on education calls to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. Within this goal, one of the targets we are collaborating to is to ensure that teachers are prepared to deliver quality education. The iKnowledge Academies are working to make this goal a reality in the communities where we work by providing relevant and required capacity development and training.

The capacity and systems in place in all academies are only the first kilometers of a long marathon. Our next step will be to ensure that all the academies receive on-going support so they can start to delivery training and generate revenue to sustain the academy. The mandate of the iKnowledge team will also be to advocate to the Ministry of Education Officials at national, regional and local level to support and mobilize other schools to benefit from Academies within their regions. This “Academy” approach to sustainable educational delivery is part of the broader Camara Education goal of improving quality of teacher education to impact on student learning outcomes.