DLA in Ethiopia - January 2019 update


DLA has been spending time in the school at Sherkole refugee camp, Ethiopia. This safe setting for nearly 4000 children and 76 teachers teaches up to Grade 8 (age 14 approx) in a 25000-population temporary city housing refugees from DRC, Sudan and South Sudan. Now it has a role in the development of learning programmes for volatile and unstable contexts worldwide. DLA has just finished filming in the school for a series of training videos featuring local teachers and students.


This work is for The British Council and its partner agencies including UNICEF, UNHCR, DAAD and Mercy Corps who are financing Language for Resilience - an “Emergency English” programme described in an earlier blog. DLA’s input is about developing new ways to raise teachers’ capacity in English language and classroom teaching skills. With over 30 tongues spoken among Ethiopia’s million-strong refugee communities, English, one of the national languages, is a key to survival. It’s also the language students need for Ethiopian High School exams.

These are challenging settings in which to raise English and teaching standards fast and at massive scale. To help us do it right, UNHCR, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education, and its Agency for Refugee Affairs (ARRA) gave access to 5 different refugee camps to conduct fresh research on the needs of the teachers - who are mostly unqualified volunteers. In autumn 2018 we trained local data collectors to gather thousands of education data points from refugee teachers, students and parents. We found clear evidence that video materials for mobile learning are in demand as part of the teachers’ training mix. Time to start filming.

What’s the right video?

Our research also showed the learning design had to feature plenty of classroom examples, and to invite discussions about topics. To ensure sharing and conversation they will be distributed on SD cards to play on teachers’ mobile phones.


The effectiveness of all training material depends on how easily the learner audience (teachers in this case) relates to the content. DLA producer Amir Garmroudi went with the production team to Sherkole to shoot the videos with real students and teachers. Amir aimed for minimum interventions, treading carefully to maintain the authenticity of the classroom while making sure the production value and communication of ideas was clear enough to be understood on a mobile phone screen.

Interviews with teachers and students add authenticity to the videos. Some star performers emerged. Angel, a refugee teacher from DRC working in the school, explains how and why she uses demonstrations when setting up class activities. Ishmael, a Grade 8 student talks in the videos about what he likes in the class, to exemplify the process of feedback.


What’s the right language?

The linguistic needs and capacities of the teacher audience are an important factor in this kind of video. Teachers and students have multiple mother-tongue languages. Some videos are produced in both English and Arabic to assess the demand for different language versions.

Where next?

DLA and the British Council will be observing throughout February how the teachers use and benefit from these video courses under different models of support. Subject to evaluation, there are plans for a full training course in English and Teaching to be produced in this way. There’s an urgent need for scale and revitalisation in educational training and learning design across all of Ethiopia’s camps. Government is keen to see programmes like this roll out at scale and across the whole country. The British Council aims to develop models for English and education in displaced and transient communities worldwide.

Making and distributing bespoke audiovisual learning materials in international crisis response contexts is one of DLA’s areas of focus, alongside our output of  education video for schools and commercial publishers worldwide. We are doing similar work for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh.

At IATEFL conference on 5th April 2019, The British Council and DLA will together present data from research into refugee teacher training needs, show these training films, and reveal preliminary evaluations of their use in the camps’ schools. Please join us!