Global Teacher Prize
Ranjitsinh Disale received the Global Teacher Prize in December 2020. Disale is a 32-year-old schoolteacher in Paritewadi, a village located in a rural area of Western India. The Varkey Foundation named Ranjitsinh Disale the most inspirational teacher of 2020 for various reasons. Additionally, he remodeled the area’s school system, optimized pupils’ learning process and empowered teenage girls.

Celebrating Teachers Around the World

The Varkey Foundation collaborates with UNESCO to award the Global Teacher Prize to educators around the world. This Foundation believes that education should be at the center of social and humanitarian issues. According to the Varkey Foundation, education “has the power to reduce poverty, prejudice and conflict.” The Global Teacher Prize is a $1 million grant that goes to one educator every year to celebrate their contributions to education and, by extension, world peace.

The Varkey Foundation underscores the impact of the Global Teacher Prize on local and international levels. As education shapes future generations, it is crucial to invest in teaching and improve educational systems on a global scale. Thus, the Global Teacher Prize has always received important media coverage. Moreover, the Global Teacher Prize inauguration obtained international support from Prince William, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates in 2014. International media supports the foundation’s goals and is crucial for the Global Teacher Prize. It recognizes the essential nature of education-related professions. Overall, the Global Teacher Prize awarded more than 40 national rewards to teachers and educators all around the world. For instance, 17 countries and states created awards celebrating local teachers in 2017.

The 2020 World’s Most Inspirational Teacher

Ranjitsinh Disale greatly contributed to the educational and cultural structures he worked in. Shortly after arriving in the small village of Paritewadie, he learned the local language. He then translated the textbooks used in his classes to improve his students’ ability to study efficiently. The 2020 laureate showed dazzling commitment to his profession. For example, he used technology to transform the educational system. He made PowerPoint presentations to expose his students to the outside world. Furthermore, he showed YouTube videos, songs and movies to his students on his personal laptop. Others best knew Disale for embedding QR codes into the students’ books so they could use videos and poems while studying a specific lesson.

One of the main challenges Ranjitsinh Disale encountered as a teacher was the lack of access to education for teenage girls. The schoolteacher used interactive and digital versions of his own lessons to reach girls who were staying at home. In addition, he personally advocated against teenage marriages. According to the Varkey Foundation, the schoolteacher transformed the entire village’s system. The organization stated, “The impact of Ranjitsinh’s interventions has been extraordinary. There are now no teenage marriages in the village and 100 per cent attendance by girls at the school.”

Hope for the Future

Disale’s contributions to world peace do not stop here. The schoolteacher recently took part in the Let’s Cross the Borders and Live Together project. This international project aims to create a network between young people living in conflict zones to raise global awareness and build international solidarity.

Ranjitsinh Disale explains that collaboration is crucial in the fight against poverty. As a result, he decided to share his $1 million prize with the nine other Global Teacher Prize finalists. By supporting other inspirational educators, the schoolteacher hopes that they can all help improve education systems in developing countries. In an interview, the schoolteacher declared that his highest hope was to give every student from underdeveloped countries a chance to access quality education.

To make his dream come true, local solidary and international cooperation remain crucial to his vision of an educated future.

– Soizic Lecocq
Photo: Flickr

Distance Learning in Ghana
Education is a key tool that people can use to effectively fight intergenerational poverty. Education boosts workers’ resumes and skillsets, diversifies career opportunities for young people, helps women gain skills to bring in income and provides essential information to improve returns in existing economies like agriculture. In Ghana, the government has prioritized widespread education through various programs, public funding legislation and goal setting since the 1980s. However, primary, secondary and higher education can still be hard to come by in Ghana, where growing demand for education outpaces the available supply of teachers and infrastructure. Luckily, distance learning in Ghana is becoming a priority.

The Situation

Primary school students can sometimes be in classrooms with 80 to 100 other students, while secondary students must alternate when they can attend school. Additionally, students who live in rural areas often lack access to educational hubs, especially since these areas typically suffer a shortage of qualified teachers. As a result, Ghana has led the way in developing extensive distance learning programs at all levels of schooling, such as university. Distance learning uses technology to enable fewer teachers to publish educational information for a much wider, and widespread, audience. Distance learning cuts down on travel time and cost, diminishes the need for large schooling infrastructure otherwise needed to accommodate every student taking a given class, provides flexibility for employed individuals seeking to improve their resumes and makes education available to a broader array of families. Here are four facts about distance learning in Ghana.

4 Facts About Distance Learning in Ghana

  1. Constantly improving technology paints a bright future for widespread distance learning in Ghana. As of 2015, 50% of students in Ghana had internet access, while almost every university provided 24-hour access to the web. Additionally, 70% of the population owned a mobile device by the end of the same year. However, internet access can still be spotty and unreliable. In response, in May 2020, tech companies like Facebook, China Mobile International and others launched 2Africa, a project to bring high-speed internet access to Africa via a 37,000 km submarine optical cable. The project will improve essential reliable internet access and speed to 16 African countries including Ghana by 2023. Surveyed students in Ghana expressed that they hope the project will reduce the national illiteracy rate, which currently measures at 21%.
  2. Distance learning in Ghana includes broadcast television, radio and internet programs. The Government of Ghana launched a program in 2002 called The President’s Special Initiative on Distance Learning (PSI-DL) which pre-recorded and broadcasted math, English and science lessons on national television for junior high and high school students. It also broadcasted additional elective programs related to specific vocational skills, like “Block Laying and Concreting,” and started training workshops in 2007. The final phase of the PSI-DL program targets teacher training to improve the skills and teaching abilities of existing in-person teachers. In higher education, many Ghana universities like the University of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Cape Coast University have pioneered extensive online course offerings in sub-Saharan Africa. Most recently, the Ghana Minister of Education, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to create a national reading program over the radio for students in response to over 25,000 primary school closures from COVID-19.
  3. Distance learning in Ghana’s universities is widespread. Between 2014 and 2016, distance learning enrollment increased by 39.4%. Before that, 45,000 students were enrolled in distance learning university courses in 2013 alone. By 2016, however, about half of university enrollment was through distance learning. Distance learning enrollment increases by about 8,000 students per year.
  4. A wide variety of distance learning programs exist for accreditation, job training, primary and secondary education and college-level education. Beyond widespread Ghana university programs for accreditation and online classes, many organizations have adopted distance learning programs to reach students at all levels. A study that broadcast satellite lessons for rural primary students from Accra, Ghana found “significant gains . . . in rural students’ numeracy and foundational literacy skills.” The Varkey Foundation, partnering with UNHCR, uses satellite lessons to teach math, English, and “gender empowerment” to Cote d’Ivoire children living in Ghana refugee camps. Online training programs like Moodle help Ghana nursing students have access to a wider variety of educational resources like training videos and online textbooks. The United Nations’ iLearn Umoja program teaches online courses and provides certification for business and systems skills training. Similarly, the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council recently launched an open-enrollment accreditation program in June 2020 with 36 subjects, including business finance and project management.

Distance learning is changing the game for widespread education in Ghana and setting an example for the rest of the world. Distance learning in Ghana allows primary and secondary students in rural areas to access adequate educational material despite limited local resources, provides accreditation opportunities for working adults and equalizes individuals’ opportunities to enroll in higher education. As enrollment in distance learning programs continues to increase and technology continues to improve, it is safe to say that the best is yet to come.

– Elizabeth Broderick
Photo: Flickr

The Varkey FoundationThe Varkey Foundation is a nonprofit organization meant to improve the standards of education for underprivileged children around the world. Through building teacher capacity and advocacy campaigns, the Varkey Foundation is able to accomplish this goal.

The foundation started with Sunny Varkey, an education entrepreneur who believes that education “plays a key role in reducing conflict, prejudice, poverty and intolerance around the world.” Through the Varkey Foundation, programs geared toward improving classroom instruction, teacher appreciation and the advocation for improved global education have helped the world greatly.

The following are descriptions of the Varkey Foundation’s various campaigns and programs:

  1. Instructional Leader Program
    The Instructional Leader Program is a low-cost teacher training program that addresses the issue of teacher quality. This program consists of a five day, face-to-face course aimed at school administration and principals in order to improve teacher quality within schools. The Varkey Foundation also has training courses for tutors. It has established satellite schools to continue professional development and Saturday workshops based on school needs.
  2. Making Ghanaian Girls Great!
    Making Ghanaian Girls Great! (MGCubed) is an interactive distance-learning program—the first of its kind in Ghana. Through the use of technology and multimedia content, MGCubed is able to deliver quality teaching to over five thousand students throughout Ghana. This program uses solar powered computers and projectors to broadcast lessons to connected classrooms across Ghana. Through MGCubed, the quality of education increases and girls also have access to an after-school program specifically geared toward gender studies.
  3. Varkey Teacher Ambassadors
    Varkey Teacher Ambassadors are role models who promote great practices in education and are leaders in developing learning techniques. These teachers are known to go above and beyond for their students’ education for the best possible future. The teachers who become ambassadors are given the opportunity to share and promote their projects to larger audiences online or at the Global Education and Skills Forum.
  4. Global Teacher Prize
    The Global Teacher Prize is a $1 million prize that is annually given to a teacher that has made an extraordinary contribution to their profession. The purpose of this prize acknowledges that teachers should be recognized and celebrated for their efforts. Not only does this prize reflect the impact of the teacher on their students, but also their effort put forth in bettering the community. Through the recognition of hard working teachers, education can improve, thus improving social, political, health and economic issues throughout the world.
  5. Global Education and Skills Forum
    The purpose of the Global Education and Skills Forum is to address the challenges of education and how to improve them. This forum brings together world leaders from public, social and private sectors to seek solutions for these issues. The forum emphasizes the question, “How do we get there together?” In other words, the event is meant to bring focus to how leaders can take these solutions, implement them and make sure they benefit everyone. The forum lasts two days, where more than 2,000 delegates share and debate new ways to transform education to best benefit the world.

The Varkey Foundation focuses intently on education and leaders within education in order to improve students and communities around the world. The Varkey Foundation’s programs and campaigns continue to focus on the best possible solution, as well as acknowledging teachers in all their efforts.

Rebekah Covey

Photo: Flickr

World Leaders in DubaiLeaders from the private and public sectors came together in Dubai on March 12-13 to discuss tactics for improving global education in the fourth annual Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF).

During the two-day event, speakers lectured on a variety of topics pertinent to the advancement of global education. These included such timely topics as the need for education to combat the spread of terrorism, and the lack of access to education for refugees, such as the three million children currently out of school due to war in Syria.

Workshops and debates were also held to challenge attendees to consider the practicality of solutions.

The Varkey Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the goal of improving education for underprivileged children, convened educators, academics, nonprofit leaders and government leaders, including 22 education ministers.

The aim of the Varkey Foundation is involving everyone in producing real-world global education solutions.

“The main topic will be rethinking collective responsibility for public education. This is in the context that there are still half a billion children in failing schools all around the world,” Varkey CEO Vikas Pota told Education Journal prior to the summit.

Sunny Varkey, Founder of the Varkey Foundation, did an interview with the online magazine Teach UAE. In that article he states, “it is not only important to find more money to overcome the crisis, but my belief is that by pooling our creativity, generosity, and persistence, we can collectively overcome this education crisis. If we work together – government, business and civil society – we have it in our power to finally give every child their birthright: a good education.”

Notable among the speakers at this year’s summit were: Tariq Al Gurg, CEO, Dubai Cares, UAE, as well as Sir Martin Sorrel, Group Chief Executive of WPP and Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO. According to the UNESCO website, Bokova spoke to the need for stronger education systems and the importance of strong teachers.

Bokova also spoke of the importance of education in combating radicalism. “Education is a vital tool also in the fight against violent extremism, to counter radicalisation‎.”

The GESF summit also featured a Global Teacher Prize. The winner was picked from a list of 50 which were drawn from thousands of nominations from countries around the world. According to the Education Journal, the idea behind this was to nominate an exceptional teacher in order to highlight the importance of educators.

The winner of the prize at this year’s summit was Hanan Al-Hroub, a female Palestinian teacher. The prize includes an award of $1 million.

The MENA Herald reported that The Varkey Foundation initiated three new alliances for promoting global education which met for the first time at the GESF 2016 Summit: the Alliance on Girls’ Education, the Alliance on Teachers and the Alliance on Innovation. Alliance partners include government leaders and representatives from UNESCO, Harvard University and Amazon.

They will produce their findings and recommendations at next year’s summit.

Katherine Hamblen

Sources: Financial Express, TeachUAE, Education Journal, UNESCO, MENA Herald, The Herald
Photo: Education Journal Me