We could hear the singing even before we entered the school building. As we were escorted inside, the children gathered before us broke into dancing, proud to have been selected to represent their school for such a varied group of visitors. Sitting around the room, members from the Board of Directors called out their various nationalities – Honduras, The Gambia, Timor Leste, Georgia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States to name a few – that had converged on this warm and sunny Tuesday morning in Kigali, Rwanda, to share stories of challenge and progress and to see first-hand, the impact of a committed government and support from the EFA FTI.
- Read more on how Rwanda has benefited from FTI in the blog
Stories of progress through education in Rwanda, as told by its people by our colleague Michael McDowell.
Witnessing the EFA FTI’s work “on the ground” set the scene for the next two days of meetings of the new EFA FTI Board of Directors held in Kigali on 18-19 May. Not only was this the first meeting of the EFA FTI Partnership to be hosted in a developing country, it was also the first time the Board had an equal number of representatives from developing countries and from donor organizations. Other new partners also joined in the conversation for the first time: the civil society constituency representing teachers as well as representatives from the private sector and private foundations.
Did it make a difference? Absolutely!
Board meetings can run the risk of becoming “bored” meetings if they become overly focused on discussing process and governance issues rather than talking about what really matters – how to get more children into school and learning important life skills. The school visits to three different schools in Kigali served to inspire the members, as did the Rwandan Ministry of Education, who kicked off the Board meetings on Wednesday morning with a compelling presentation on the successes of their programs and their government’s continued commitment to education. The rest of the day focused on a substantive discussion to agree the three strategic directions of the EFA FTI over the next few years:
- Quality of education children receive,
- Education for children living in fragile states, and
- Girls’ education.
Rather than having a limited group of education specialists speaking to each other from across the table about what’s best for developing countries, this Board meeting allowed for a fair and balanced conversation between donor agencies and developing countries, north and south, east and west, public and private, and government and non-government organizations about what is really going on and how to fix it.
Having the various EFA FTI Board members share their different experiences and perspectives demonstrated true multi-stakeholder engagement in education at the global level and resulted in an exciting and successful Board meeting. This was in large part thanks to the committed involvement from all the voices, both old and new, that are included in this more representative, and consequently stronger, EFA FTI partnership.
Our hope is that as life-impacting decisions continue to be made in Boardrooms around the world, the voices of the children in the classrooms that so inspired us on that Tuesday morning will continue to lead the way.