Learning Assistants in Sierra Leone: Model, Innovation, Impact
education and enter the teaching profession. It is a blended programme of supported distance study and para-professional working in primary schools, aimed at women who are economically and educationally marginalised. The LA programme has been in effect since 2013, in rural districts in Sierra Leone where there are few women teachers and overcrowded schools. The programme is designed and guided by the UK Open University, operationalised in Sierra Leone by the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), and supported by Plan International.// The Learning Assistant programme is innovative in Sub- Saharan Africa, with multiple impacts beyond the classrooms where Learning Assistants are deployed. Retention and success rates for women on the programme are high: to date, 500 women are on track to become fully qualified teachers by September 2019. In this report we reflect on data from 2019 field research in Sierra Leone. The research team (both teacher educators) returned to see former Learning Assistants whom we met in 2017, in particular Maria and Fatmata, two Learning Assistants who were profiled in ‘It takes a village to raise a teacher’ (Crisp, Safford and Wolfendon 2017), and headteachers, teachers and community leaders whom we also met in 2017. Maria and Fatmata are now Student Teachers preparing to sit the national teacher qualification examination. In addition, we include observations with two other Student Teachers to better reflect the wider impact of the programme. We were interested to learn how participation in the programme was influencing STs’ actions and attitudes now they are classroom teachers. The field research focused explicitly on observations of teaching and pedagogy. Emergent findings indicate that the presence of women educators is driving cultural changes that create better experiences of schooling for children. //Paper ID 79
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