GATE (GEC) seeks to support marginalized girls and children with disabilities to reach their learning potential and transition from primary to secondary education and beyond.
Recruiting more women into teaching is seen as important for improving and sustaining girls’ participation in primary schooling, particularly in rural areas of Sierra Leone. But few women have the required qualifications or experience to apply to teacher training programmes. To address this challenge The Open University designed a unique access programme to prepare young women for application to formal primary teacher training. The programme offers distance learning study of core curriculum subjects combined with practical experience in a local primary school. During their year on the programme the women are known as Learning Assistants.
For the distance mode academic study Learning Assistants are organised into local groups of 15 - 18 and each group is allocated two tutors with specialisms in English and Maths respectively. Tutors are local secondary school teachers and they meet with the tutor group each week for 2-3 hours at a local school or other appropriate venue.
Learning Assistants also spend four days each week in a local primary school working alongside the teacher in class and supported by a mentor, usually the headteacher. The school placement has two functions; Learning Assistants are positioned to support pupil learning and as role models for girl pupils, and through this experience Learning Assistants are better equipped for the realities of classroom life when they commence formal teacher training. Learning Assistants who pass the Teachers’ College entrance exam become Student Teachers. They continue to work in their schools as they study to become fully qualified teachers.
For each component the Open University worked with national experts and authors in Sierra Leone to develop a set of highly structured interactive self-study materials .
In this short video one of the Learning Assistants explains how participation in the programme has changed her life.
The programme was designed by the Open University and is delivered in partnership with the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) as part of the UKaid funded GEC programme lead by Plan International.
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Programme materials were developed specifically for the Sierra Leone context and are openly licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.