The role of continuing education in providing good adult educators

Carole Avande Houndjo
Pamoja West Africa 

Abstract – This is the story of how a number of civil society organisations across several countries in West Africa organised a network to support the professionalisation of adult educators. Financial support from international ­organisations helped where national governments were not ready to fund the network. The goals set out by the network are ambitious and the initial results encouraging. PRIQUE is a success story, and this article explains why.

The Third Global Report on Adult Learning and Education stresses the fact that adult learning and education is an essential component of lifelong learning, and will make a major contribution to the Sustainable Development Agenda between now and 2030. Having said that, more than half of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is illiterate. Adult education stakeholders are struggling to ensure that everyone has ­access to quality education. Whilst it is gratifying that access to basic education has improved over the past decade, its quality leaves much to be desired. The quality of adult education therefore remains a major challenge in West Africa. In an effort to contribute both to the right to education for all and to the quality of basic education, civil society organisations in West Africa have developed educational services for groups who do not have access to formal education. Solutions focus on teaching in national languages, and adapt teaching contents to life contexts through vocational training. These initiatives are supported by partners such as the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), DVV International, and others. Although they are recognised by the states, they do not receive state funding. The Regional ­Interinstitutional Programme for the Quality of Education (PRIQUE) has been established in order to lend greater visibility and legitimacy to these educational alternatives. The programme enables states and NGOs to train national actors (programme managers, supervisors and facilitators) with the aim in mind of improving the quality and equitableness of education systems.

“The goal pursued by PRIQUE is to improve the quality of basic education and to help boost educational opportunities.”

PRIQUE was launched through a participatory process which mobilised education experts (Universities, Ministries of Education, civil society) from Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger during 2016. Subregional workshops made it possible to design a model for the Master’s degree course in Design Engineering and Management of Educational Alternatives (ICGAE), as well as the continuing education programme in adult education. The pilot phase of PRIQUE covers the period from 2017 to 2019.

This article tells the story of a unique experience of collaboration between adult education stakeholders. 

What PRIQUE wants

The goal pursued by PRIQUE is to improve the quality of basic education and to help boost educational opportunities through a professional Master’s degree course and a pathway of continuing education at subregional level in West Africa. Specifically, this involves:

  • boosting the capacities of education managers in the various French-speaking countries south of the Sahara by developing diversified continuing education opportunities that are closely linked to one another and which complement the programmes within the countries and the training opportunities currently linked to the professional Master’s degree course at the ENS in Niamey;
  • continuing to upgrade and diversify the continuing education that is on offer, including in emergency situations, by modernising modules and integrating new adapted training services to meet the demands of government services and civil society organisations;
  • developing training engineering, the design of training programmes, and the establishment of pools of trainers at the level of each country, in the field of education, in the holistic sense of the term;
  • promoting continuing education opportunities for education managers in French-speaking countries south of the Sahara through an effective communication and networking plan;
  • improving the conditions for the implementation of training using modern communication and distance-learning tools through an educational resource centre;
  • strengthening operational capacities with more than 2,300 managers who have come through state structures, CSOs/NGOs from PRIQUE countries and elsewhere;
  • setting up a digital documentation centre.

First results 

PRIQUE has achieved significant results during the two years of its implementation, including:

  • training 23 managers from Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Togo for the Master’s degree in design engineering and management of educational alternatives;
  • designing 14 training modules developed after a needs assessment was carried out among education stakeholders in West Africa;
  • training more than 200 literacy and adult education actors by means of continuing education;
  • lobbying for the Ministries of Education to assume ownership of PRIQUE.

Roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders

As its name suggests, PRIQUE is a multi-stakeholder programme with the aim of improving the quality of education in French-speaking countries south of the Sahara. To promote ownership of the programme by all stakeholders, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation has succeeded in encouraging collaboration between university professors, representatives of the Ministries of Education of the PRIQUE countries, and civil society organisations, facilitated by a con­sultant who ensures that the process moves on smoothly in qualitative and programmatic terms.

PRIQUE is run by a steering committee which meets every six months on a rotational basis in one of the five ­PRIQUE countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger). The members of the steering committee are:

  • the responsible officials of the École normale supérieure and of the Institute for Training in Literacy and Non-­Formal Education (operational and strategic coordination);
  • the representatives of the Ministers of Literacy and of Non-Formal Education of the five PRIQUE countries;
  • the focal points for the five PRIQUE countries designated by the Ministers of Literacy and of Non-Formal Education;
  • the civil society focal point provided by the Pamoja West Africa network;
  • the regional education/training adviser from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation;
  • the backstopper (consultant recruited by SDC).

The responsible officials of the École normale supérieure du Niger (ENS) and of the Institute for Training in Literacy and Non-Formal Education (IFLNFE) have been tasked with the implementation of the programme. They present the results, challenges and prospects to the steering committee, and then implement the recommendations made by the committee.

The role of the representatives of the Ministers who are responsible for literacy and for non-formal education is to lobby the Ministries for the inclusion of PRIQUE training in training plans, to report to the Ministers on all the decisions taken by the steering committee, and to present to the committee their countries’ experiences and initiatives in literacy and non-formal education.

The individuals who act as PRIQUE focal points are tasked with lobbying for regular registration for the ICGAE’s continuing education and Master’s degree courses. Their action plan in this context has been approved by the steering committee and implemented in their countries. In addition, they help update the list of LNFE players, and provide input with regard to the acquisition of indicators in their countries. Finally, they are tasked with organising the steering committee in their countries. Six focal points are included in PRIQUE: Five correspond to countries, and one to civil ­society. The Pamoja West Africa network is responsible for mobilising the latter.

The regional education/training adviser represents the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation on the steering committee, and ensures that the programme is implemented in accordance with the project document that has been approved by its West African Directorate.

The backstopper acts as the programme’s support worker from the design phase through to the implementation level. He facilitates the meetings of the steering committee and supports the team from the ENS and the IFLNFE in technical terms when it comes to drawing up the programme’s strategic documents.

Intervention strategies 

Intervention strategy for the implementation of continuing education

IFLNFE’s intervention strategy consists of providing continuing education in Niamey and throughout the subregion. It is complemented by the provision of a digital documentation centre for education stakeholders.

The continuing education courses that are taught at ­IFLNFE take place over a period of ten days. Education stakeholders are informed about the programmed (thematic) module, about the profiles that are envisaged, as well as about the deadlines and the conditions for taking care of participants, thanks to a vast communication operation conducted by IFLNFE, and to the PRIQUE focal points. The application forms are received and sent to IFLNFE by the ­focal points. A commission meets to review the files and select participants on the basis of predefined criteria. The minutes are sent back to the SDC Regional Adviser for approval, before being shared with the focal points. This process takes two weeks.

Continuing education can be relocated to the PRIQUE countries. There are two types of off-site continuing education: that requested and organised by Ministries or NGOs, and that provided by the IFLNFE trainers’ pool. In principle, this also lasts ten days and covers the topics of continuing education. In fact, the training courses taking place at the IFLNFE are not sufficient to reach the entire target audience. This is why IFLNFE offers the opportunity for structures in the subregion to request off-site training for their staff at very much reduced costs. This enables the programme to have greater impact and to be more beneficial to stakeholders.

Off-site training is organised following a request to IFLNFE from a structure (e.g. a non-governmental organisation, a network or a ministry department) for the benefit of its members. The structure submits the list of candidates and their profiles to IFLNFE for its approval. IFLNFE in turn provides the trainer and the teaching materials. The costs related to providing support to the trainer (speakers’ fees, travel and accommodation costs, etc.), and the participants’ registration fees are paid to IFLNFE whilst logistics are managed by the requesting structure.

IFLNFE plans to train pools of off-site trainers to reduce the costs of continuing education, bring it closer to the beneficiaries, and have proven skills available in all the PRIQUE countries. 

Continuous education targets managers and staff working in Ministries of Literacy and of Non-Formal Education (LNFE), as well as NGOs and projects with an LNFE component.

1  Intervention strategy for the Master’s degree in Design ­Engineering and Management of Educational Alternatives (ICGAE)

The Master’s course lasts two years, and is organised over four semesters. The training model includes teaching units such as: educational planning and management, educational engineering, andragogy/adult education, didactics, management, lobbying, language sciences, ICT, bilingual and plurilingual teaching in formal and non-formal education, measurement and evaluation of learning, the quality of education, and development and analysis of educational policies. The first cohort of the Master’s course attended the in-classroom courses at the ENS in Niamey. This option of in-classroom courses did not encourage many players from NGOs to enrol, as it was impossible for them to obtain two years’ leave of absence to attend. The implementation of a semi-classroom training system is therefore envisaged in order to encourage a larger number of actors to attend from among the next cohort of the Master’s programme, due to start in October 2019. Semi-classroom courses will allow the participants to attend the courses on a distance-learning basis whilst remaining in their respective countries, but also to continue their professional activities.

The staff teaching the Master’s degree course is made up of men and women from the professional world (Ministries of Education and NGOs/civil society organisations offering educational solutions) and Universities from PRIQUE and Northern countries (Universities and international organisations). These actors are tasked with implementing the various training modules in accordance with the training model and timetable developed.

The enrolment procedures for the Master’s degree course are as follows:

  • holder of a Bachelor’s degree (baccalauréat + 3 years’ study) or of an equivalent diploma;
  • have at least three years’ experience in education and/
  • or training;
  • pay the registration and training fees.

Challenges and prospects

PRIQUE is a good example of multi-stakeholder cooperation to boost the quality of education in general, and that of adult education in particular. One of PRIQUE’s major challenges is to mobilise other financial partners in order to achieve a greater impact. SDC is currently PRIQUE’s only technical and financial partner. It is important that the Ministries of Education and NGOs take ownership of PRIQUE through an annual budget to train their staff.

Another urgent matter is the need to design modules on educational topics such as education in crisis situations, ­education for global citizenship, education for peace, etc.

The rise of terrorism in northern Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger has led to the closure of hundreds of schools and displaced thousands of people, and there is an urgent need to put forward solutions to meet the educational needs of these out-of-school young people.

PRIQUE makes a significant contribution to the achievement of SDG 4 on access to quality education, notably in target 4.5: gender equality and inclusion; target 4.6: achieve universal literacy among young people and adults; target 4.B: expand the number of scholarships available to developing countries; target 4.C: increase the supply of qualified teachers. Indeed, in terms of their wording and objectives, the two components of PRIQUE, the ICGAE Master’s degree course, and the FC-LNFE, are capable of helping attain all these targets. When selecting participants PRIQUE takes the issue of gender equality into account. PRIQUE promotes universal literacy among young people and adults at the level of target 4.6, thanks to the high-quality training that it offers to managers who are responsible for educational solutions. In the same vein, the high-quality training received through PRIQUE is able to influence the attainment of target 4.C by contributing towards a substantial increase in the number of qualified teachers/trainers in the countries covered by the programme. Finally, by awarding scholarships to managers from PRIQUE countries, the programme contributes to the attainment of target 4.B on expanding the number of scholarships available to developing countries.

The programme is currently being evaluated; the recommendations resulting from this evaluation will make it possible to improve the PRIQUE mechanism for the next phase, which will be launched in 2020.


1 / These periods are illustrative, as they may vary from year to year.

About the author

Carole Avande Houndjo is a trained ­linguist specialising in adult education. She is currently working as the coordi­nator of the Pamoja West Africa network, which lobbies for the quality of education through the use of the REFLECT method, which is an effective tool for community empowerment. 


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