Not only the sun was shining during the last week of September, welcoming a total of 16 guests from DVV International from Mali, Togo, Tunisia and Algeria to northern Germany. In other respects as well, the visit to five adult education centres in Lower Saxony, the Lower Saxony state association of adult education centres, and to an industrial museum, offered many reasons for the creation of a good mood. And all this in the course of concentrated and committed discussions – some of which lasted into the evening – offering our West African and North African partners a comprehensive insight into the financing, organizational structure and content of German adult education.
For more than ten years in Mali, for a few years in Tunisia and Togo or, as in Algeria, just in planning, DVV International has been engaged in strengthening adult education systems in North Africa and West Africa. In order to better address practical challenges in daily work and to find new ways for cooperation between local politics and adult education centers in the respective project countries, DVV International organised the study trip, from September 24 to 29, for a delegation of North African and West African partners. The 16 participants – among them mayors, local politicians and representatives of the respective ministries of education – were able to get a comprehensive picture of the adult education landscape in Lower Saxony.
Diversity of German adult education
Accompanied by the Regional Director for West Africa, Martin Westphal and the Regional Officer for North Africa and West Africa, Johann Heilmann, the visits took the delegation to the Volkshochschulen (adult education centres) in Delmenhorst, Wildeshausen, Wesermarsch, Ammerland and Oldenburg, showing the delegates the many facets of their organizational structures and offers in both urban and rural areas. The participants discovered that some Volkshochschulen (Delmenhorst, Oldenburg) organize themselves as limited liability companies, while others (e.g. Wildeshausen) operate as separate associations. The various funding sources of the adult education centers they visited also showed the guests how flexibly those responsible have to react to changing framework conditions. It also became clear how competently German adult education is facing up to its public responsibility – not least when it comes to integrating refugees or shaping the digital transformation.
Mutual learning and new impulses for work
In often intensive exchanges, the participants were also able to show us the many good examples from their countries and thus give valuable suggestions to the leaders of the adult education centers they visited, as well as to some local politicians from Lower Saxony. After one week, all our guests returned to their respective countries and, in cooperation with the project managers of DVV International, they will look for ways and means to implement what they have learned and to make it useful for the benefit of the target groups of adult education.