Peeling Oranges in South Sudan

13.12.17

Reviewing Progress at Ibba Girls Boarding School

Jean Hartley and Vicky Dratia

Each year FIGS and IGBS carry out a joint review of the school, highlighting achievements and progress, and also areas where there is room for continuing improvement. This year’s review was carried out in Ibba by Jean Hartley (FIGS Trustee) and Vicky Dratia (IGBS Director of Studies)

Over a period of six days in November 2017, we talked with each of the class teachers and observed their lessons in a variety of subjects; we talked with the various support staff - matrons; school nurse; cooks; cleaners; security staff; grounds staff; and school assistant; we talked in small groups with 25 girls:  5 from each of the four classes (P4-7) plus head girl and some prefects. We also had a discussion with 10 parents in the local community. Living on the campus as part of the school community also gave lots of insights. 

The review benefitted from being an ‘insider/outsider’ team –Vicky knows the school well from the inside, and will be responsible, with the Head, for implementing practical actions from the review.  The outsider was Jean, with expertise in organizational improvement but knowing the school less intimately.    

This year’s annual review shows that the school is developing and growing really well. We found a happy, hard-working school, which is growing and developing well, with a strong ethos of respect and care for others, and with a team of staff committed to making the school a success, and a safe and stimulating place for the students to learn.

There are many improvements still to make (e.g. continue professional development for teachers; shorten prep time for the younger students, increase opportunities for sports) and challenges ahead such as preparing to open the secondary school part of the campus in a year’s time, and growing more food to offset soaring food prices in South Sudan.  However, there is great goodwill not only among the staff and students, but also within the local community and the local government, to continue to sustain and develop the school. We checked that most of the recommendations from the 2016 review have been implemented, so we are confident that the 2017 review will help the school celebrate its achievements and build on that success for the future.

The annual review is part of our monitoring and evaluation of the school.  It has several purposes:

  1. To take stock of the achievements of the school and celebrate them (It is easy to forget how much has been achieved in a busy school in a country facing deep insecurities and uncertainties)
  2. Notice and correct things which are going wrong to avoid problems as the school grows
  3. Use staff and parents’ reflections and suggestions to help the Board of Governors and the school leadership team to plan future policies, programmes and priorities
  4. Give UK Trustees and donors confidence in the school through evaluation and continuous improvement
  5. Contribute to the school’s aims to achieve “excellence without elitism”.

The annual review is a bit like peeling the delicious juicy oranges which are grown on the school campus. The Europeans bring a particular, and for them customary, approach to eating an orange – score the peel, use fingernails to take off the skin, eat the whole orange.  The South Sudanese have a different and also customary approach.  Using a sharp knife, take off the peel (but not the pith) in one long string, then cut the top off the orange and suck out the juice, discarding the flesh when there is no more juice.  Each approach may seem strange to the other (causing curiosity and lots of laughter) but each approach has its own merit as a way to eat an orange. 

Keeping that sense of curiosity and diversity in a joint review is important.  While Vicky and Jean shared many ideas and ideals about what makes a good school, they also explored their different ways of thinking about some aspects, and this helped to generate questions: why are we doing things like this, and how useful is it?  What are the alternatives? How can we keep learning from and with each other, and improving the quality of education and care for these precious young girls.

Picture102

Teachers Uyaka and Fabiano in an orange-eating contest

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