GBA’s Story Continues

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”—Margaret Mead

Over the weekend, Giving Back to Africa’s (GBA) board of directors met to solidify our vision and create a strategic plan for the next 5 years.

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GBA is engaged in justice work in the Democratic Republic of Contgo by investing in the local people. Through collaboration, GBA is partnering with local teachers to create sustainable change in pedagogy. We believe that as teachers and students embrace and demonstrate 21st century skills, communities will realize and utilize their assets to become self sustaining communities.

As an organization, we believe in “walking with” not “doing for”. We are partnering with the Noyau teachers to create a four year mentorship program that will be tested at a school in Kinshasa. The goal of this program is to invest in teachers while instructing them in student centered, problem based learning.

As the board of directors, we are energized and focused on the work set before us. Our commitment to the DRC people is strengthened as we look forward and dream big!

Meet Mr. Emmanuel

At College des Saviors (CdS), Giving Back to Africa has the Noyau, our core or “kernel”, teachers. These teachers are instructing the students at CdS to embrace 21st century skills as they become agents of change in their Mpasa community.

Meet Mr. Emmanuel Losua-Sombo. As a child, his parents placed a great emphasis on being educated in order to provide for himself. While in school, Mr Emmanuel respected his teachers and wanted to emulate them as an adult. So, he pursued a career in education.

Mr. Emmanuel has been at CdS since the school was started. He has benefited from watching the school grow in the post-conflict society of Mpasa. Over the years, he, as a teacher, has learned and grown from the school’s partnerships, such as with Giving Back to Africa, and by creating relationships with other professionals.

As a teacher at CdS, Mr Emmanuel loves to enrich his knowledge through his interactions with other professionals. He fully embraces the problem solving approach of Giving Back to Africa. Due to this pedagogical approach, he has witnessed the students taking charge of themselves and their learning. Mr Emmanuel has seen the students grow in confidence even in the midst of a community that many would describe as very under-resourced.

Mr. Emmanuel states that teaching is a most noble profession that invests in the life long change of students. He is proud of his collaborative work with Giving Back to Africa and CdS to produce positive change in the Mpasa students and community!

21st Century Skills

The term 21st century skills is used to define core competencies that are believed to be crucial to a students success in today’s world. The are four major components of 21st century skills: collaboration and teamwork, problem solving, creativity and imagination, and critical thinking. At Giving Back to Africa, our curriculum encourages the use of these skills within the classroom and the community.

Recently, a group of eight grade students were working in the garden with their teacher, Mr Kibulu. A student was curious as to the French translation for the vegetable “bilolo”. None of the students or teachers knew the French translation for the Lingala word “bilolo”.

One eighth grade girl, Booti, demonstrated 21st century skills as she attempted to solve this problem. This girl purchased a French/Lingala list of plants for 100fc/$6. She brought the list to school and worked with her fellow classmates to determine the plants name. When asked about purchasing the list of plants, she stated “I wanted to know about the plants”.

The instruction of these 21st century skills are creating students, like Booti. They are creative problem solvers that use creativity and critical thinking to collaborate with their peers.

Meet Mr. Chancard

Noyau means “the core” in French. At College des Saviors (CdS), Giving Back to Africa has four core teachers, our Noyau teachers. They are the teachers who are creating 21 st century thinkers in the post-conflict community of Mpasa. They are the teachers who are facilitating CdS students to become agents of social change in their community. These Noyau teachers are demonstrating that a small “core” can create a big change!

Meet Mr. Chancard Mapasi Mbela. He has been teaching since his graduation in June 2005. Mr. Chancard was drawn to teaching by his own teachers. He states that they were always loving, encouraging role models for him. Because of their influence, Mr. Chancard decided to become a teacher where he could have a positive influence on his students.

As a teacher at College des Saviors, Mr. Chancard most loves when he sees his students grasp and apply a new concept. This brings him great joy as a teacher! At CdS, he enjoys collaborating with the other teachers. They work together to plan new lessons that will encourage the students to engage in 21st century skills. According to Mr. Chancard, this consideration and planning have fostered a great sense of mutual respect, love, and optimism among the teachers at CdS.

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Recently, Mr. Chancard had the privilege to represent CdS and the DRC at a workshop in the Gambia, Africa. He said that this incredible opportunity has taught him the important role brainstorming plays in becoming a problem solver.

In his classroom, Mr. Chancard implements what has been learned through the GBA Education Model. He encourages his students to address issues concerning the Mpasa community and the Cds school by brainstorming ways to resolve issues through problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration.

Engineer Manuga Visits the Students of College des Savoirs

The students were very excited to be visited by Engineer Manuga from Loyola University of Congo. He came to speak with the students about the importance of crop rotation and its application in their Students’ Learning Garden.

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Engineer Manuga began his presentation with questions about the garden and composting system. He demonstrated to the students it was necessary to rotate crops ensure a good production and harvest. When a farmer plants vegetable seeds and seedlings several times in the same ground, it happens that at the 2nd or 3rd harvest, the vegetables are not of good quality because the quantity of nitrogen that enriches the soil becomes diminished, if not exhausted. He also let them know that composts were not enough to facilitate the growth of plants, so we also must rely on animal waste.

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In closing, he said that all plants need three components: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. He reiterated that crop rotation is very important for many reasons including to avoid causing the soil to lose its important nutrients, to avoid diseases, and to increase production. He also advised the students to identify and produce rare crops according to the seasons for good trade policy.

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The Fete De Presentation

At the end of every school year, the College des Savoirs (CdS) school organizes a public Science Fair called the Fete de Presentation that allows the students to preform public presentations: dances, skits, poems, that shares with all the knowledge they have learned over the past year.  Teachers from Giving Back to Africa’s partnering schools, community members, parents and dignitaries from the Education Ministry, Police, Rotary Club Gombe, and Ndjili School joined parents of the CdS students in watching the presentations. 

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Mr. Jovin Mukadi, who is the advisor of the DRC Education Ministry, was very impressed with the students’ work.  He was thankful of the work that GBA was contributing to help further their country’s education efforts and said he would work with the Minister of Education to organize a workshop for GBA to present results and impact from this experience.

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After the presentations from the students, two CdS students, 12th grader Ebimba and 9th grader Mbwebwe, showed the rest of the school to the guests from the Education Ministry, Police, and Rotary Club Gombe.  The garden and compost were the main points of the tour, since they have changed the most since last year’s Fete de Presentation.  The two students gave a knowledgeable presentation on the compost and garden and even taught their guests a few things they didn’t know.

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The Inspector from the Education Ministry in charge of the clean school program, Mrs. Vero, was very impressed with the garden and the amount of work the students and teacher had put into the planting and maintaining of the crops.  She encouraged the students to continue with their work with the life lesson that this type of learning is not focused on a grade, but it will help them in many different aspects later in their lives. 

Mr. Kapasi, who is from the Reform Division for the Ministry of Education, really enjoyed spending the day at CdS.  He expressed his joy by saying that images from this event should be broadcast on television and put in leaflets to hand out to every school in the DRC so students and teachers can see what is being done at College des Savoirs (CdS) school. 

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In addition to this great day, CdS received some good news that 10 of their 11 students that qualified to take the State Exams have passed. This is an extremely high pass rate for this difficult exam, and the students’ teachers and parents as well as the staff and volunteers at Giving Back to Africa are beyond proud!  In addition, a student from CdS, Ebimba, had the highest score of all students that attempted the test.  This is a perfect indicator that the focused work being done by GBA/DRC staff, students and teachers in the DRC is paying off. 

With the school year over and the success of the Fete de Presentation and State Exams, students can enjoy a short break from class to play with their friends and relax before the school year starts again.  This year has been a great success for the teachers and students of CdS.  The progress that they have made in improving teaching methods for their students, the improvements with composting and gardening methods, and the peer to peer teaching sessions for teachers and students has exceeded all expectations.  We cannot wait to see and share with you what is in store for the next school year.

Peer-to-Peer Teaching Between the Lukunga and College des Savoirs Students

Students and teachers from Lukunga met with students and teachers from the College des Savoirs (CdS) schools so that all the students could work together to help the students at Lukunga start their own student-driven school garden.  Students from the CdS are experienced gardeners and harvested their most recent crops at the beginning of May.  This exercise is meant to help teach the students about the importance of collaborative efforts.  These two groups of students have met with each other before, and they spent the first part of the meeting getting to know each other better and talking about what they have achieved since their last meeting.

Students from Lukunga and College des Savoirs

Students from Lukunga and College des Savoirs

As the collaboration continued, they talked about waste management and composting.  A CdS student by the name of Mbwebwe talked with the Lukunga students about creating bins of trash that can put into a compost and keeping them separate from the bins of trash that cannot.  He stressed the importance of recycling waste, and used the example of how CdS students used discarded plastic bottles (instead of wood) to frame their raised beds and to protect their raised gardens. Mbwebwe continued in telling the Lukunga students that the waste from the compost can be used as a natural fertilizer for the garden.

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The students at Lukunga seem to be excited about the prospects of their new Student Learning Garden.  The have been seen showing initiative at cleaning the area where the garden will be located and preparing to create raised beds to be put in place.  With the help of CdS students, students from Lukunga will soon have a bountiful school garden of their own and learn many lifelong lessons in the progress.

A Meeting with the Parents and the Harvesting of the Garden

A group of involved parents, students, and teachers met at the Collége des Savoirs school to allow the teachers to show the parents what has been going on at the school during the past few months.  These parents, students, and teachers have given their group the nickname of “Noyau” to symbolize their commitment with the school, that includes their frequent assistance with the Students’ Learning Gardens and their dedicated participation in parent-teacher meetings.  This meeting began with the Garden Supervisor showing the group the progress in the composter.  They talked about how in the near future, more waste is going to be added to one compartment and the old waste will be transferred to a second compartment to continue decomposing. 

Noyau students and Noyau parents meet with the Garden Supervisor to talk about the progress with the composter

Noyau students and Noyau parents meet with the Garden Supervisor to talk about the progress with the composter

After this, parents were invited to sit in on a lesson about decimals, fractions, and percentages.  This lesson was taught using grids drawn in the sand to represent the sale of vegetables. For example, 100 Congolese francs represents the 100 squares drawn in the sand.  After this, students and parents engaged in an activity that made the students ask ten yes/no questions to various people and present their findings using fractions, decimals, and percentages.  At the end of the lesson, the students and parents were split into two teams and by only using gestures given by their team, one member of each team had to guess a word the teacher had written on the board behind them.  The students really enjoyed this game.

Noyau teachers and students enjoy a lesson about fractions, decimals, and percentages outside while the Noyau parents listen

Noyau teachers and students enjoy a lesson about fractions, decimals, and percentages outside while the Noyau parents listen

After this lesson, the Noyau worked together to harvest a portion of the garden and collaborate on how to use the garden in the near future.  Since the dry season is approaching for the DRC, a suggestion was made to plant tomatoes, spikes, spinach, sorrel and amaranths, as these plants grow better during the dry season than other crops. 

Students harvest the last of the raised beds in preparation for the next round of planting seeds

Students harvest the last of the raised beds in preparation for the next round of planting seeds

The involvement of the parents with the school helps improve the quality of education that the students are receiving.  The teachers are constantly learning about new teaching methods for the Teacher Learning Circles that impress the parents and improve their work with their students.  With the introduction of the raised planting beds, students are more involved with their school and learning many ways to improve their future.

Economics Working Within the Kinshasa Community

Businessmen and women were invited to College des Savoirs school (CdS) to discuss how to run a business and answer any questions students may have had regarding economics. This presentation was an effort for students to gain background in finance so to begin learning Modules 4 and 5, Lesson 3. The students welcomed three speakers to hear about a plethora of businesses operating within their community.

Mr. Nelson shared his experience with his convenience store where he sells cookies, candy, and soaps. He previously studied at CdS in 2008 and is now completing 12th grade while operating his business. Mr. Emmanuel Kabuya, pictured below, highlights the sales within his hardware store. He currently has two kids enrolled at CdS. Ms. Ostine, pictured below, sells vegetables grown from her garden to the community. Some of those vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and eggplant.

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Students asked thought-provoking questions to these individuals:

• How do you set the price of your goods?

• How do you know that you received profits?

• Are your activities profitable?

• What do you do when your (perishable) goods are not bought on time?

• How do you distribute your income or profits from your business?

• What advice can you give us regarding our school garden?

The culmination of these presentations ended with excitement and students will share the provided answers with other classes. We are incredibly grateful to these individuals who took time out of their busy days to share with our students many aspects of running a business.

Teacher Learning Circles Spark Creativity in Lessons

Teachers from all 3 partner schools along with Giving Back to Africa (GBA) staff met on April 6th to discuss efforts to improve classroom climate for our students. Four teachers from College des Savoirs school (CdS) shared their techniques with the entire group. Teacher Mr. Emmanuel presented his strategy of telling a story first by observation of a problem and then solving to fix that issue. Teacher Mr. Chançard explained and insisted that students should always be encouraged in class. He said he believed that through encouragement students will become more engaged leading to their success. Additionally, he likes to incorporate games and metaphors within his teaching. He explained the parts of a tree into these 4 sections: the root is the belief or idea, the trunk is the personality, the branch is the behavior or attitude and the fruit is the event that takes place.

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Mr. Pombo stressed the importance of song and music through teaching students. He did an activity with the group in which they sang a song to discover the 26 letters of the alphabet. He also did an experiment regarding waste management. Each individual received a piece of candy and observations on where the wrapper had been disposed of were made. Some placed it in a wastebasket, some on the ground, others kept it in their pocket. Mr. Pombo highlighted how this could be communicated to kids to effectively manage their waste. Lastly, Mr. Kibulu shared. He stressed the need for good writing skills within the classroom and that much time should be dedicated to helping students with spelling and vocabulary. Additionally, he felt there are great benefits to counseling students and forming a relationship through teaching.

Teachers across all three of GBA’s partnering schools learned from these presentations. Many harnessed skills to incorporate games and stories into their teaching effectively. These four presentations showed more active participation within the classroom and how different forms of information can be received simultaneously.