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By Guillaume Ndayishimiye Bonja, SJ
Apr 15th, 2016

“Quality education, taught by competent teachers and well backed, is a right of every child, youth and adult, and not the privilege of some” World Education Forum, 2015.

They say correctly that the present determines the future. Building the future on the present is truthfully what it takes for education. Many parents have understood so. But, how can we assure quality education? What mechanisms must be reinforced to achieve it? What parameters have to be taken into account to settle it? If we take the case of Burundi (Oriental Africa) where the education values blast and formation levels decrease highly, it is necessary to pledge the needed elements to assure quality education.

In the school of Saint Esprit (Jesuit school of excellence, Bujumbura), teachers try to determine certain parameters:

  • They select quality students in the beginning, as the farmer chooses the good seeds. In the beginning of secondary school, the students aged 10 to 12 that suit the prerequisites are selected for a better chance of success. They are well-trained in their mother tongue (the access to primary knowledge), and in modern languages: french, english (opening themselves to scientific, sociologic and ecologic notions), in maths (abstraction, reasoning). They are well motivated to study, to be active in their education, suitably conditioned, people who will bear fruit.
  • The importance of learning spaces: our students receive an education in not very full rooms, well ventilated and lit, open and with a good sound and visibility. The seats are comfortable for the long hours of work. They have enough educational material (individual textbooks, laboratory equipment, a computer screen to share between two, notebooks, etc.) Other parameters are: a good working environment, respecting the schedules and a good hold of infrastructures. Also, the organization of exams for a personal evaluation, as well as handing in homework and questionnaires regularly.

As the product also depends on the producer, the quality of education depends on the teachers. Our teachers are qualified, competent, efficient, dedicated, conscientious, enriching their science with the experience and continuing training. They must be well treated and well paid which is something that does not happen in many African countries and that several schools try to fix by giving more or less substantial bonuses. The condition of the teachers deeply affect their performance: to heal them means to heal education and its quality.  The school officials hire good teachers and treat them well (salaries, bonuses, solving health and family problems, giving them work tools, making their job easier in terms of how much work they have to correct and how many students they have).

For accompanying the children, they work together with the parents (morality, human excellence, leadership of the studies) because with the end of traditional social and family structures, the teacher loses its references.
The state and the school administration carry out other quality supervisory bodies: education policy, programs, assessment of skills, and certification of levels. Up to today, our students have done well in different academic institutions and in the working world. Unfortunately, nowadays, the level is going down and the university teachers and the employers are complaining.

The blame is on the global environment and the learning conditions. New technologies provide shortcuts: the calculator replaces calculus, electronic backups kill the memory, reading and writing is overtaken by the audiovisual.

In our country, the devaluation of education is primarily due to the devaluation of the teachers. The school teachers, formerly at the top of knowledge and education, have gone down to the bottom of the social scale and are not the best anymore. Teachers are not the ones who received the best education or the ones who know more! On the contrary: they are the ones who are less trained, less skilled and the ones who are paid less! A culture of mediocrity produces mediocrity. It means to kill education and perish!

The historian Ki-Zerbo writes « Educate or to perish »: an alternative! To get rid of the vapors that put a price on education. The one who has been taught well should teach and be well paid for it! We have to value the teaching profession, it will become more appealing and the best will fight to give the best of themselves and put up the level again.

Guillaume Ndayishimiye Bonja, sj is the Director of the Lycée du Saint Esprit, Bujumbura, Burundi

This article was published with permission of edujesuit.org