Substitute this.

If I were the Minister of Education in Burkina Faso, one of the changes I would make to the educational system would be a network of substitute teachers. As stated in earlier posts, there are really no substitute teachers here. If a teacher is absent due to injury, illness, pregnancy, or other. They most likely do not get replaced. If they’re lucky they may have a PCV or a villageois who is willing to do it. If there is no substitute other teachers or the director may fill in. If not…it’s too bad.

Yesterday I found out that the CM1 teacher at Ecole A is going to be going on maternity leave. When I asked the director if anyone was going to replace her he said probably not. Because we actually have a director at our school I think that he may end up covering for her, but even that is not 100% sure. He lives in the regional capital and not in the village and does not come in every day.

Here’s another example, last year our CM2 teacher was out for weeks with ulcers and hallucinations. She never got a substitute teacher Luckily our director was able to fill in and there were many motivated and exceptional students.

I was talking to my friend Beth, another Music Ed grad and PCV in the Sourou Valley and she did a ton of subbing before she came to Burkina. Many of my classmates got long-term sub positions when a teacher was on maternity leave. Sometimes those jobs turned into other jobs. The advantage is that the subs got experience, and they got paid for it. It can be a very lucrative job when someone is first starting out and has not yet won  a full-time position.

When I was student teaching in Michigan, my school district had an electronic subbook with available hours with qualifications and needs and whether it was a long-term or a short-term sub. Because I was student teaching, the sub was just there to observe me, because technically student teachers cannot be left unsupervised. It worked great. If my cooperating teacher was sick or going to be absent he could log on and post his classes he would miss online. Even when he traveled from school to school the position was always filled.

I don’t think that an online subbook would be a viable solution in BF, but it could work in terms of long-term substitutes on paper. If there are trained teachers, or teachers with enough experience (tutoring, training etc ) they should be informed and able to take an open sub job. A school should be able to put out a notice saying that Teacher X who teaches (CP1, CP2, CE1, CE2, CM1, CM2 etc) is going to be on maternity leave for X months. They advertise the job and somehow work out housing and get it filled. The students get taught, the sub gets paid and gets work experience. In theory, everyone wins. The Direction Provinciale de Education de Base could be in charge of it, or it could be done by district at the Conscription de Base level.

In my opinion, one of the biggest obstacles to the education system here is lack of attendance by teachers and students. When the students don’t have school or don’t have a teacher, they suffer. This system could potentially create hundreds if not thousands more jobs and ensure that every child in BF has an equal opportunity and access to their education.


3 responses to “Substitute this.

  1. 1) Money?
    I sub here in the states, and even here, there’s concern about financing in some areas. Basically if a teacher takes up to a certain number of days off, the school’s got to pay for both the regular teacher and the sub. After said number of days off, the regular teacher starts getting it docked from his/her paycheck.

    If I remember how hard it was to get paid in BF correctly (even w/o subs), I’ve got to imagine adding subs (and the necessary gestionaires to manage their pay) would only make this payment process more difficult.

    2) Supply/Demand? and Access
    In most areas of the US, you sign up to be a sub for one or (frequently) many school districts. Each of the schools in the district has at least 20-30 teachers and there’s usually at least a HS, MS, and several elementary schools in the district. So if all you’re doing is working as a sub, this allows you to still get pretty consistent work since you’re likely to be called in a lot. This allows us to (supposedly) ask more of our subs. Unfortunately, in practice, many subs still treat their role as that of a (not-so) glorified babysitter.

    In BF, even in bigger cities where you have more than a primary school and the occasional college, you’re still working with less teaching staff and thus less demand. With less demand, you either need to pay the subs more (to compensate for the time they were waiting for work but un-needed) or expect a lower quality of work. It seems to me that either situation is at least mildly problematic logistically.

    Finally, speaking of logistics, subs need to be notified of jobs so they can work. Supposing that one or several subs worked for all the schools in an aire sanitaire, that might be enough to provide them with semi-regular work. But then you still have problems of displacement (many satellite villages are up to ~20 km away) and reseau (while the signal keeps getting better in BF, there are still many areas with schools that are reseau black-holes).

    To many of these concerns, you could say that it still makes sense to try it out and when it works, it works. Potentially this could work if funding for the subs came from the AME/APE and not the gov. I imagine that using Gov Ed money to support select schools would be seen a bit negatively by those that weren’t able to benefit from the program.

    Sorry for the mildly critical long-winded response. I love the idea and feel that there’s certainly a lot that should be done to improve ED in BF. I just also feel that it’s important to go into ideas prepared for what likely difficulties one might encounter.

    Hope all’s well.

  2. Hi Rob! Thanks for your comments. Very informative and Insightful. I mean, many of those issues I didn’t think about! Perhaps I am just a bit too idealistic, or i’m still in the I’m living in BF lens. Also, when I get back to the D we are most definitely kicking it BF style.

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