Developing the World’s Teachers: AAUW’s African Educators Program

February 13, 2014

 

A black-and-white photo of a group of women teachers

African educators visit Washington, D.C., as part of AAUW’s program established in 1962.

Looking through the African Educators Program archive box, it is hard not to be moved by the sheer importance of the program and its effects. Established in 1962, the program gave African women educators — mostly high school teachers — professional development opportunities in the United States to address the shortage of teachers in many African countries at the time. After completing the program, the returning teachers trained and recruited additional teachers in their home countries.

Teachers from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Zambia, and other African countries were chosen after being nominated for the fellowship by both the U.S. Cultural Affairs Officer and the Minister of Education of each educator’s country of origin. In the fall, the teachers would come to the United States for an eight-week stay that featured lectures, seminars, visits to educational institutions, and cultural events. At the end of the program, the teachers toured the United States.

Participants reflected on their experiences in post-program evaluations, which detailed their time in the United States and what they took from the program. One 1979 participant, René Khiba of Lesotho, wrote of her refined skills in counselling, teacher and pupil motivation, and delegation of authority thanks to the opportunity.

A letter from an AAUW educational chair introducing the Sacramento branch’s plans to host two African teachers.

A letter from an AAUW educational chair introducing the Sacramento branch’s plans to host two African teachers.

Professional gains were only one of the benefits of the program. The evaluations also stressed participants’ deeper understandings of American culture and values, allowing for greater appreciation of cultural differences and an introspective appreciation of participants’ own culture back home. Khiba noted America’s emphasis on money and that her community in Lesotho placed more value in less-tangible things such as friendship.

Another 1979 participant, Yaliwe Jiya, wrote about her impression of Americans as people who set goals for and had faith in themselves, recognizing that back home in South Africa, people were much more modest. “The warmth of the people” she stayed with was one of her standout experiences.

In 1975 AAUW received the Tribute of Appreciation award from the U.S. Department of State in recognition of the program’s “more than a decade of exceptional dedication and leadership in opening new paths of communication and understanding between educators in Africa and the United States.” Its tangible effects — the photographs, letters, and firsthand accounts — are invaluable to both the program’s and AAUW’s history of commitment to international empowerment. We celebrate the African Educators Program and worldwide opportunities for women!

This post was written by Fellowships and Grants intern Emily Carroll.

 


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