On Tuesday 21st September, Teach For Uganda (TFU) launched the 1st ever Virtual Institute (VI) for the Cohort 4 fellows with a total number of 76 fellows expected to participate in the training for at least 1 month from the date of the launch. This is an innovation that responded to the Covid-19 pandemic which limited physical learning. The virtual institute was facilitated online by competent Leadership Development Officers (Coaches), subject matter specialists, invited guest trainers, motivational speakers, and Teach For Uganda staff.
The objectives of the Virtual Institute
- To broaden participants' knowledge of TFU’s vision, mission, and value orientation.
- To engage participants in lesson planning, delivery, and transformational teaching (pedagogy).
- To orient the participants on reflection and personal leadership development.
- To increase the visibility of TFU work for innovations, shared learning, and resource mobilization.
- To build the capacity of fellows in online running virtual institute and use of digital tools
The rationale of Virtual Institute
The rationale for launching the Virtual Institute is an innovative drive that is responsive to the context orchestrated by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the government SoPs in managing the pandemic. In June, Cohort 4 Fellows had reported to the Institute for training but on the same day, the president announced a total lockdown. This implied that the Fellows had to be dispersed. The launch of the Virtual Institute means that fellows are able to resume a one-month intensive course before they are distributed across various schools and communities as teacher leaders. After the virtual institute, TFU will have plans to engage fellows in a number of activities prior to the opening of schools.
It should be noted that the Institute (Virtual or physical) is usually run because not all fellows that TFU targets are professionally trained teachers. Therefore, the Institute provides an opportunity to bring fellows whose disciplines are outside education to catch up on classroom requirements and stakeholder engagement. The Virtual Institute will definitely be a game-changer for all fellows irrespective of their field of study, including coaches, and will provide a learning opportunity for them to understand the digital tools like Google classrooms, zoom navigation to study, and deliver sessions online during and after the institute.
While delivering a keynote address, Mr. Gerald Otim in an inspirational speech challenged fellows on documentation, people management, and focus.
He shared his career path around education and entrepreneurship to the level where he established a Tech company called “Ensibuuko” (heritage) that provides financial tech services to financial institutions, SACCOs, and community groups in Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zambia.
"I run a company worth three million dollars and employing at least 40 people to deliver tech financial services but I started in the classroom teaching entrepreneurship," he said
Charlotte Iraguha, the TFU's Managing Director encouraged fellows to never give up on learning saying: "grow yourselves and support children".
This Virtual Institute Framework essentially provides the comprehensive outlook of the institute with an overview, the rationale, its objectives, the process to be undertaken, key expected outcomes and indicators, participants, and follow-up mechanisms. Ideally, the framework picks key elements of post Institute strategies such as the M&E plan which measures progress beyond the institute as well as the post institute engagement strategy for Cohort 4 Fellows.
David Okello, Head of Programs at TFU in his remark said; "It is yet another milestone for TFU to launch an innovative virtual transformation leadership institute for Cohort 4 fellows. This comes barely 2 months after launching an ongoing Tele-Learning Initiative where TFU Fellows and Coaches are able to deliver lessons to children who have not had an opportunity to be in class especially lower primary ones that had been locked down for nearly 2 years. Besides, TFU launched digital learning for rural schools in 2020. So it’s an important journey that I welcome you all to embrace and commend TFU Senior leadership for supporting TFU staff to work diligently towards making the VI launch a success!"
The TFU Virtual Institute whose vision is "A self-aware and resilient fellow skilled in hybrid pedagogy and transformational leadership for community impact" is the 1st of its kind since TFU started the training institute program. Under the theme; "Digital skilling for Fellows, a must for continued learning in face of Covid-19 pandemic".
As part of preparations of fellows for VI, TFU has been able to orient coaches and fellows on relevant digital tools required to run the institute for the next 1 month. For instance, Google classroom navigation and zoom platform orientation have been conducted, including the use of breakout sessions that are relevant for group discussions and group assignments which I believe will make learning more effective.