EDC radio programs are enabling learning to continue in Liberia, despite the Ebola crisis. The radio lessons are also helping boost students’ morale, especially in areas hit hardest. EDC’s Lisa Hartenberger Toby describes the program for the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
EDC’s work in Liberia was featured during a recent BBC broadcast on education during the Ebola crisis. The segment highlighted ways in which the USAID-funded Advancing Youth Project is bringing education to learners through interactive audio instruction broadcast on local radio stations. It begins at 39:00.
As Ebola rages across West Africa, nongovernmental organizations such as EDC are finding creative ways to continue to deliver programming. Lisa Hartenberger Toby discusses the importance of education and how radio can be used as a teaching tool when it is unsafe to gather in classrooms.
Drawing on their expertise in mobile learning (m-learning), EDC staff members will present several innovative ideas at the second annual mEducation Alliance International Symposium. The conference, which will focus on using mobile technologies to improve literacy and job skills and create partnerships, will be held September 5–7 in Washington, D.C.
Why he’s leaving: Mike Laflin, 65, has retired as senior vice president at Education Development Center, where he oversaw international-development programs. He had worked for the Waltham, Mass., charity for nearly 20 years. His successor is Larry Lai.
Background: After three years as an English teacher in his native Britain, Mr. Laflin taught in Kenya under a British aid program in 1972. The Kenyan Ministry of Education later transferred him to the school’s broadcasting service to write and direct educational radio programs.
Proudest accomplishment: Building a nationwide program that provided educational instruction over the radio to students in Zambia, which has lost many teachers to HIV/AIDS and where schools are scarce in rural areas. Communities organize sites where children meet for half-hour daily broadcasts for each grade, overseen by a local volunteer. Students who receive the radio instruction perform at the same level as their peers in conventional schools on tests for fourth graders. “It showed that there were other ways to meet the demand for education than just saying schools are the answer or we need to train more teachers,” says Mr. Laflin.
Challenges for international development: Mr. Laflin worries that the trend toward data-driven grant making, while understandable, is curtailing experimentation and research. “If you are looking for evidence, you’re by definition looking to the past or the present, but not to the future.”
What’s next: Mr. Laflin plans to return to writing and theater, interests he had to put aside because of the frequent travel his job required. In the early 1980s, Mr. Laflin co-wrote two musical comedies that were staged at Washington’s Folger Theatre. One of the plays was a huge success while the other was a flop, says Mr. Laflin. “That sort of told me, ‘Well, you can’t really do this and be going to Liberia every few months,’ ” he says. “They’re just not compatible.”
“I have never seen students in such a hurry for the sun to rise so they can go to school,” says Broulaye Sangar of the young participants of an EDC program working to improve schools in Yanfolila, Mali. The community is thrilled with the results of the program: Students are reading better, more girls are attending school, and there are fewer absences.
EDC’s South Sudan Interactive Radio Instruction is providing learning opportunities and civic education to students and others who do not have the opportunity to receive an education in the world’s newest nation.
EDC’s Norma Evans discusses her literacy and development work in Africa. “For children in resource-poor countries, literacy is social and economic capital. It allows them to participate more fully in society and to access better jobs.”
After years of leading EDC work in Malawi and Zambia, Simon Richmond recently returned to the United States. He specializes in using educational technologies such as radios and iPods to enhance learning in remote communities.