By Catherine Asego
“This will be a hard stop as I have to be on my way to the airport by exactly 4:30 Pm and it will largely be driven by you”. Those were the words of Ms. Ndumba, giving us an indication of how the sessions would be – fast-paced, intense and heavy on member participation. As RELI members collectively put their thoughts together and put pen to paper, discussions on the direction each country team would be taking in engaging policymakers and other partners in the education arena became clear.
The exercise commenced in earnest in October 2019 when the support team members and representatives of the countries convened in Nairobi to deliberate on the communication needs of RELI as a regional entity and agree on how best to communicate both internally and externally. Thus, the country-level meetings are a follow up to the regional meeting communication strategy meeting with the hope that the country teams would align their strategies to the regional one. At the regional meeting, the objectives agreed upon were that; 75% of RELI members are applying learning systems by April 2021, external Individuals and Organizations engage with co-created knowledge on the Knowledge Hub by April 2021 and RELI actively engages in the EAC Educational Consultative Forum by April 2021.
This year, we hit the road running with the first meeting convened in the pearl of Africa – Uganda on January 21 with Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education (LGHIE) hosting us at their exquisite offices in the city of Kampala. Passion rented the air as group members argued their positions and justified why their objectives should make it to the top list of priorities for the country. Uganda settled for the following broad objectives;
- The Ministry of Education and Sports Uganda (MOES) establishes unit costs for primary and secondary education in public and government-aided schools for all learners by 2021
- The Ministry of Education and Sports develop minimum standards on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) provision in Uganda by 2021
- RELI contributes to the implementation of the National Teacher policy by 2021.
In Tanzania, things were no different, except for the date of the meeting which was on a Saturday – a shift from the culture of working through weekdays. This clearly shows their commitment and urgency of ensuring their collective voice in the advancement of the RELI learning agenda. Ken Oulu – the country’s MEL mentor was there to ask the hard questions and make us think deeper about the communication needs and objectives for greater impact. The following objectives were finally agreed upon by the Tanzanian team;
- RELI Tanzania has structured engagement with the ministry of education and ministries identified by RELI Tanzania leaders by April 2021
- RELI Tanzania engages with other education networks and stakeholders in Tanzania by April 2021
- RELI institutions adapt and improve on their learning systems by April 2022
- RELI Institutions in Tanzania map out and operationalize the synergies created by 2021
The final stretch was in Nairobi Kenya with the team eager to learn from their thematic group expertise as well as from their counterparts in Tanzania and Uganda. Team Kenya did not leave anything to chance with the group of the day – the omnibus – clearly outlining four policies they wanted to influence and at what stage each process was at. With the thought-provoking expertise from the learning curators Andiwo and John, there was no stone left unturned. The following objectives made it to the Kenya communications strategy;
- RELI contributes to the review process of policies and guidelines (APBET registration guidelines, NACONEK Strategy) on the education of children in marginalized areas (Urban poor, Arid, and Semi-arid areas).
- RELI strengthens collaborations with the Teachers Service Commission, the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development and the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology to influence teacher development and curriculum design by April 2021.
- To actively engage in providing technical support for the implementation of the following policies; School re-entry policy and policy guidelines, policy for trainees and learners with disability, the language of instruction policy, parental engagement guidelines
The communication strategies have accompanying action plans which, if implemented, will catapult the engagement aspirations of thematic groups and RELI members as a whole at both the national and regional levels.
In conclusion, RELI Members are engaging policymakers, education partners and practitioners at different levels. However, planning for that engagement and making it intentional i.e having a strategy will give them clear guidance especially on the policy asks and messages needed to communicate effectively.
Opportunities for regional clusters to collaborate and identify unifying communication needs exist. For instance, in Uganda, the teacher development and life skills groups are keen on engaging with the teacher policy and specifically issues of teacher professional development, assessment of life skills, and teaching methodologies. Their counterparts in Kenya are seeking joint partnerships with the TSC on teacher professional development and initiating an assessment of Values and life skills across East Africa.
RELI brings together diverse people with different expertise, strengths, and clout in the education and development sector. Having this knowledge of who already has a seat on the education roundtables makes it easier for members to plug into already existing structures, systems and have greater Impact.
The role of the knowledge curators and RELI members – catalysts, MELs and communications leads cannot be overemphasized. They played a pivotal role in shaping the agenda (owned by members) and asking the difficult questions that made this exercise much more fulfilling.
Policymakers and education partners want to look good – if we can make them look good, why not do it for the benefit of the millions of learners across East Africa.
Planning leads to effectiveness in how we collaborate and work together – RELI Tanzania developed a RELI Calendar of events that will enable members to plan ahead and fully participate in the RELI events.
Ownership of the RELI Communications strategies at the country levels is paramount to the success of joint engagement and communications efforts.