BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE — Senior officers of the Baha’i Faith, members of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, recently met for a conference at the Baha’i World Centre following the 12th International Baha’i Convention to reflect on major developments in Baha’i communities around the world.
During their recent conference, groups of Counsellors joined in conversations that were captured by the Baha’i World News Service for a series of podcasts on community building, spiritual transformation, and social change.
In this episode, Alain Pierre Djoulde, Clément Thyrrell Feizouré, Maina Mkandawire, and Judicaël Mokolé – all members of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Africa – discuss selected Baha’i-inspired endeavors in the field of education.
Their conversation is informed by the experience of several Baha’i-inspired organizations involved with education and highlights certain principles drawn from Baha’u’llah’s teachings that help inform their approach to development.
“Fundamentally, we start from the assumption that each human being has been endowed with the potential to contribute to their own transformation and the transformation of their society,” explains Mr. Djoulde, who follows the work of Emergence Foundation in Cameroon. “And each people, each community has been endowed with all the capacities that allow it to develop. So, the role of [our educational program] is to help individuals to become more conscious of the potential that God has given them, and how they can use that potential for the well-being of their community.”
Mr. Feizouré, who works with Ahdieh Foundation, a Baha’i-inspired organization that promotes community schools in the Central African Republic, adds: “Our approach to development consists above all in developing the capacity of the local population itself to take charge of the education of its children.”
“The approach that we take is completely in the field. It involves us having conversations with the local population about education – about intellectual, spiritual, and moral education. Then the community itself decides to construct its own school, and our role is mostly to help the community develop its capacity by training teachers and accompanying the process of education that is put into place,” he continues.
Mrs. Mkandawire works with a similar initiative, Bambino Foundation, in Malawi. Speaking of the experience there, she says: “With community schools, the community takes responsibility of the education that their children are involved in. The teachers are from the community itself, and they are very dedicated. The community can see the transformation in the children because there is now a unified purpose for both the parents and the teachers to make sure that the children’s education goes well. So, we find that there is a lot of involvement and commitment from the parents to make sure that their children are learning. In most cases, these schools are run by the community itself. The families pay a little just to support the teacher. And the teachers don’t get much, but it’s the service to their community, to their village, that motivates them to teach so that they see some change for the better.”
The organizations that support community schools focus on providing teacher training and improving the quality of education as the school expands. Their experience has shown that premature introduction of funds to an endeavor can create challenges that may lead to dependency on outside support or disunity. Such educational institutions emerge where the spirit of worship and service is pronounced; in these places there is also a heightened consciousness of collective responsibility to the advancement of their community.
Mr. Mokolé, who also works with Ahdieh Foundation in Central African Republic, explains that the experience of this Baha’i-inspired organization with community schools has generated insights that have been useful to the government in its work to provide education throughout the country: “It allowed the government to see a possible way to overcome the question of finances that was the limiting factor in supporting teachers at community schools – an approach focused on raising consciousness and changing the mentality of the parents so that they can themselves take charge of supporting the teachers that are educating their children.”