Progress in digitalization and child protection

Nov. 2022

PATRIZIA School Yaoundé was selected as one of the pilot schools for the Ready for the Future digitization project in 2021. From the end of August to the beginning of September 2022, Foundation staff members Otto Dodoo (Partner Manager) and Beatrice Rutishauser Ramm (EoL Expert) visited the school to assess the progress of ongoing projects and to deepen the Foundation’s long-standing partnership with PATRIZIA School Yaoundé.

The initial situation before the start of the project

PATRIZIA School Yaoundé is a bilingual school with pre-school, primary and secondary education. After the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, teaching and learning at the school – as in so many places around the world – came to a standstill. Unlike in Europe, this also meant a food problem, because for many children, school is the only place where they are regularly provided with a hot meal. Therefore, children from families with few financial means were hit hardest by the effects of the pandemic. In order to be able to provide quick and targeted support, the PATRIZIA Foundation set up the Corona Fund Education Health (CFEH). In Yaoundé, these funds were used, among other things, to improve the sanitary facilities and to finance masks, disinfectants and medical material for the newly established health station. In addition, the position of a full-time nurse was created to care for students and staff.

Another difference to the pandemic-related restrictions in this country: teaching and learning in Cameroon could not easily be converted to digital forms. Not only was there a lack of the necessary hardware, but most teachers also lacked basic knowledge of how to use the technical tools and didactic skills for child-centred learning. The digitisation programme “Ready for the Future” addresses all these leverage points. During their visit, Otto Dodoo and Beatrice Rutishauser Ramm gained an overview of the status of the programme as well as other ongoing projects and set new priorities for the 25-year programme with the school, such as inclusion and the Child Protection Policy.

Child-centred learning with the Essence of Learning methodology

In workshops and direct discussions with teachers, Beatrice Rutishauser Ramm received very positive feedback about progress in child-centred learning according to the pedagogical concept “Essence of Learning”, which she developed and which has proven itself for decades. Great successes have already been achieved here, especially in the pre-school and primary school sectors. One teacher, for example, reported that there were fewer disciplinary offences in his class since he started teaching with more child-centred methods. “It was also very important for us to see that now, after the first year, it has been understood how closely digitalization and child-centred learning are connected,” says Rutishauser Ramm. Further measures, such as targeted training for teachers, are now being derived from the insights Beatrice Rutishauser Ramm and Otto Dodoo gained on site.

Child Protection Policy: Progress in child protection

In Cameroon, frontal teaching is the rule and child-centred learning is a novelty. Even young children have to sit still for long periods of time. Classes often involve disciplinary measures, including corporal punishment. This is where the measures under the PATRIZIA Foundation Child Protection Policy come in. In discussions with the provincial Father Jules Joseph Jules Nkodo, Otto Dodoo found much openness for the proposal to develop the PATRIZIA School Yaoundé into a certified Child Protection School. Father Jules assured that the school should be a pioneer and role model for child protection in the whole of Cameroon. Otto Dodoo discussed with the directors of the pre-school, primary school and secondary school how the Child Protection Policy can be implemented in school life on a daily basis. A very important factor for success is, for example, the active involvement of teachers and parents. Teachers have already been informed about the PATRIZIA Foundation Child Protection Policy. Information evenings with lectures, at which parents are also to be sensitised to the topic, will now follow. Together with renowned institutions in the field of child protection, the school management will develop and implement strategies and measures that will contribute to making PATRIZIA School Yaoundé a child protection certified school.

 Ways to more social inclusion

No child should be denied access to educational opportunities because of their origin or for other reasons: This is the goal of social inclusion. Measures are to be taken to ensure that children from poor families who cannot pay school fees can also go to school. For this purpose, Otto Dodoo developed a scholarship concept together with the directors.

A new playground for the PATRIZIA School Yaoundé

The first steps towards more child-centred teaching at PATRIZIA School Yaoundé have been taken. But the children still sit still for many hours. It is therefore all the more important that they can let off steam during the breaks and satisfy their childlike urge to move. To improve the conditions for this, the PATRIZIA Foundation is building a new playground at the school. In discussions with the headmasters and the project committee, Otto Dodoo strengthened the ownership of the local people: so that the children get exactly the playground that best suits their needs. This is also to ensure that the playground is optimally adapted to the local conditions and can withstand the rainy season, for example.