Leading school development in the African context

By Irene Masango, School Development Director, Scholé Uganda

Yesterday at lunchtime I was standing under a mango tree sheltering from the mid-day equatorial sunshine, looking out over lush green fields down to Lake Victoria and in the background singing rose up from a classroom behind me… What a soundtrack! A group of S3 (Year 10) students had just had lunch and were feeling so happy they decided to sing about it. I had this surge of gratitude for where I am and what I’m experiencing, for the chance to make an impact on the history of this school, on the lives of these children and on the professional development of the staff.  I have no doubt that the biggest impact of all is going to be on me though – it’s already started!

The job itself – leading the transformation of a school as the School Development Director / Executive Principal and being involved with a team of outstanding, inspiring people who have achieved incredible feats of transformation in education not only in the UK but internationally – is a dream come true. So here I am, in Uganda, along the Entebbe Road just outside Kampala in my office at Kisubi High School!

The school has had a difficult recent past for many reasons. I knew what I was facing when I came out here in September as I’d received lots of information on the school, its students and its staff. I’d also been able to visit the school for a week in August.

The first month has been a lot about fire fighting, relationship building, getting to know who’s who and what’s what.  It’s a fact that in any staffroom you’ll find passionate, intrinsically motivated teachers, sceptics and dementors and every type of person in between and it’s exactly the same here. The difference is that you’re operating in a culture with its own norms and idiosyncrasies and you have to navigate these alongside trying to really get where someone is coming from, to understand what they are actually saying and to get them to really understand you!

The leadership team has bucket loads of enthusiasm and optimism, but they have no idea how to strategise and where to start to construct an improvement plan. I’m in the throes of designing a new organisational structure, rationalising the curriculum, introducing a new timetable with one hour periods while embarking on a quality assurance exercise where I’ll observe every teacher in the school formally in the next fortnight. Never a dull moment that’s for sure!

So what have been the quick wins so far? Within a week the campus, which had become one big rubbish dump, was cleaned up and the students started to pick up their litter every morning on a class rota. We stopped caning (all forms of corporal punishment) immediately and with none of the backlash some thought there might be. I introduced internal isolation during the day as an alternative. One boy, who must be at least 6 foot 7 (from South Sudan), actually cried on day two and said the ‘punishment’ was too much for him and he’d rather be caned! We’ve introduced the concept of B4L and replaced ‘discipline and punishment’ with behaviour management and we’ve even had CPD on using restorative approaches! Another quick win has been to pay the staff on time and to improve the diet so that there’s more to it than rice and beans every day.

It’s been an absolute whirlwind of a month and a half but when I stop to reflect and to take stock of what we’ve already achieved it’s affirming and inspiring. I know I’m in exactly the right place at exactly the right time and for exactly the right reasons. I won’t only be based at Kisubi High School as Scholé aim to build a system of schools in Uganda and elsewhere in the region – so my role is a really exciting one with the potential to make significant impacts to a lot of people’s lives.

So, would you be up for this kind of leadership challenge? If you have any questions or comments do follow up with me personally.

When Edtech Meets Montessori, Kids Rule

Take a peek at Acton Academy and you may wonder if you’ve stepped into a mythical world where students are heroes, learning is a quest, and teachers are guides for the journey. In this one-room-schoolhouse approach, 36 K-5 students share one space, while 28 6-8th graders share another. The teacher is merely a guide, as students have autonomy in almost every facet of their learning.  This innovative school model is on a quest to grow ten new schools by next year.

via When Edtech Meets Montessori, Kids Rule Edtech | EdSurge News.

Pop-Up Schools Could Radically Improve Global Education

212 Bridge Academies have opened in Kenya during the past four years. Bridge’s “schools in a box” spring up seemingly overnight: In January of 2013, the company launched 51 schools at once, while in September it opened another 78. Bridge now educates roughly 50,000 students in Kenya every day, and its global aspirations may transform the entire project of education for poor youth around the world

via Pop-Up Schools Could Radically Improve Global Education | Wired Design | Wired.com.

Newcastle professor named in world’s top 10 list

The Tyneside professor who inspired an Oscar-winning blockbuster has been ranked among the top 10 global thinkers.

Sugata Mitra, who specialises in educational technology at Newcastle University, was included in the prestigious CNN 10: Thinkers list.

The run-down of influential international thinkers highlights the efforts of “visionaries whose ideas are shaping our future” in science and technology.

The senior lecturer is acknowleged for his work developing education in Indian slums.

via Newcastle professor named in world’s top 10 list – Chronicle Live.

Is Online Learning Transforming Education?

Brick and mortar schools will still exist, and the overwhelming majority of children will attend them, but the schools will be center of individualized learning, with engaging interactive content rather than a series of chalk-and-textbook, grade-delineated classrooms.

via Is Online Learning Transforming Education? | Gabriel Sanchez Zinny.

Latina Genius Hailed ‘The Next Steve Jobs’ Is a Model for the Entire Education System

Paloma Noyola Bueno, a 12-year-old Mexican math genius who was dubbed “the next Steve Jobs” and became an international media sensation, has lived up to her name. Paloma – meaning dove in Spanish – has soared to new heights, proving that there are endless possibilities when you believe in yourself.

via Latina Genius Hailed ‘The Next Steve Jobs’ Is a Model for the Entire Education System : Life&Culture : Latin Post.

Is technology the ‘Superman’ that the education sector has been waiting for?

There’s a bevy of startups in this space that are looking to help students, parents, teachers, and also school districts combat this dilemma. And so while the community is battling with its local government for funding, it appears tech companies are leveraging their know-how to keep the train going, so to speak.

via Is technology the ‘Superman’ that the education sector has been waiting for? – The Next Web.

How will disruptive technology change education?

What will education look like in the future? Considering that 10 years ago very few students carried smartphones, and tablets didn’t even exist, it’s impossible to look 20 or 30 years into the future. It is likely, however, that cloud-based technology will be the foundation for educational technology and that remote, online learning will continue to grow at a faster pace.

via A Map of Education Technology Through 2040 [#Infographic] | EdTech Magazine.