Oswego professors begin educational partnership with Benin

education teamSeven professors from SUNY Oswego’s School of Education traveled to the West African nation of Benin this summer to deliver training to school inspectors and meet with educational leaders.

The team returned buoyantly looking forward to a growing partnership with the educational leadership of Benin. “There was so much love and energy, it was just overwhelming,” said Barbara Beyerbach, professor of curriculum and instruction.

This summer’s collaboration between SUNY Oswego and Benin was part of the third phase of Project CLIMB (Collaborative Link for Instructor Mentoring in Benin), which evolved out of research conducted by Alfred Frederick, professor of curriculum and instruction, as a Fulbright Lecturer and Fulbright Visiting Specialist in Benin.

Six faculty members were supported by the college’s Office of International Education and Programs: Beyerbach, Bernard Boozer, Marcia Burrell, Suzanne Gilmour, Sharon Kane and Dennis Parsons. Frederick returned to Benin as a consultant to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has supported curriculum development there. The six first-time visitors to Benin called it “a life-changing experience.”

The challenges the Beninese face in their schools are great, team members noted. “Many classrooms have 100 children and little or no materials,” said Gilmour, professor of educational administration. Children come to school speaking one of 42 languages, she added.

“Their human resource is their greatest resource,” Gilmour said. “The community is just incredible.” She and Beyerbach elaborated on how supportive the Beninese are of each other in their daily life and work and how hospitable and gracious they were to their American colleagues.

For three weeks in July, the team spent weekday mornings making presentations on seven subject areas the Benin educators had requested. Some of their presentations, such as Boozer’s health education presentation on AIDS, were videotaped.

Much of the afternoons were devoted to discussion and applying the morning lessons, Gilmour said. Frederick worked with the school inspectors to develop assessment instruments.

They dedicated evenings and weekends to learning about the history and culture of the country and were feted at gatherings hosted by the former and current ministers of education.

Team members credited Frederick for smoothing the way in all aspects of their stay. “He went above and beyond anything you would expect,” Beyerbach said. “He hired translators out of his own pocket to assist us.”

The unifying language in the former French colony is French, and one of the first steps in developing the collaboration between SUNY Oswego and Benin’s Ministry of Education will be French lessons for Oswego faculty who participate. Next steps include arranging for distance learning opportunities, writing funding proposals to support bringing a group from Benin to Oswego next summer, and sending another team from Oswego to Benin next summer.

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PHOTO CAPTION: Teaching team—Seven professors from SUNY Oswego’s School of Education worked with two co-teachers and translators to help train 38 school inspectors in Benin during three weeks this summer. From left are Benin’s Director of Secondary Education Lassec Adjioye, Sharon Kane, Benoit Ahle of Benin, Bernard Boozer, Suzanne Gilmour, Marcia Burrell, Dennis Parsons, Barbara Beyerbach and Alfred Frederick.

(Posted: Aug 23, 2006)