Meaningful Learning in the Democratic Republic Congo

The Learning Development Institute is collaborating with the Education Development Center (EDC) in Washington, DC, to create and improve the conditions for meaningful learning for people living in rural areas in the Democratic Republic Congo. The focus of the initial pilot activities is the Luozi Territory in the Bas Congo province. These activities are being financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The collaboration started off with an extensive learning needs assessment exercise, carried out in January 2003. LDI is following up on this initial exercise through the provision of senior advisory services on an on-going basis, including through follow-up visits to the DRC to assess progress and recommend project development strategies.

Among other aspects, project activities focus on enhancing the relevance of learning in both school and non-school contexts, building on, rather than replacing, locally available knowledge, such as embodied in technologies for food gathering, production and processing; transport; water management; health care and sanitation. The two adjacent photographs show a "malaxeur," a piece of locally developed technology to extract palm oil from palm nuts.

The project focuses furthermore on participatory processes of capacity building through workshops, the development of generative artifacts and documentation, the provision of tools, and the use of community radio. As the project develops, these approaches may be enhanced by using Internet connectivity, particularly in the context of community-based and community-managed local resource centers.

A paper presentation proposal by Jan Visser (LDI) and Sonia Arias (EDC) on Towards Meaningful Learning in a Developing World: Assessing Learning Needs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reporting on the above activities, was accepted for inclusion in the program of the International Conference of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) held in Anaheim, California, from 22 to 25 October, 2003. The presentation took place on October 24, 2003. Session details as provided by the AECT conference organizers were as follows:

Title: 'Towards Meaningful Learning in a Developing World: Assessing Learning Needs in the Democratic Republic of the Congo'
Description: This paper presents the results of a learning needs assessment undertaken in the Democratic Republic Congo. It argues, based on analysis of the needs assessment data, that, to make learning meaningful, approaches are required that are contextual, comprehensive and integrative. A proposed intervention, based on such approaches, pays specific attention to using local science and technology as a basis to build on for improving teaching and learning. Concrete examples will be analyzed.
Sponsor: International Council Session Facilitator: Jan Visser
Length: 30 Minutes Start Time: 11:45:00 am-12:15:00 pm Date: 10/24/03 Location: Hyatt Regency-Salon II
Keywords: Research, Instructional Development Session Type: Concurrent
Key Presenter: Jan Visser, Learning Development Institute
Copresenter(s): Sonia Arias, Education Development Center.

In February/March of 2004 a mission was carried out to evaluate progress, assess ongoing needs, and recommend future action regarding the development of the project. Even though implementation of the project had been going on for a mere half year, surprisingly good impact could be noted in changed teacher behavior. Though no change in student behavior could yet have been expected after such a short period, the team was happy that its findings contradicted its too pessimistic expectations. A report of the mission in question, authored by Sonia Arias, EDC/Multichannel Learning; Jan Visser, Learning Development Institute; Tony Streit, EDC/YouthLearn; and Jeffrey Goveia, Academy for Educational Development, is available under the title Basic Education, Innovation & Technology in DR Congo: Preliminary Pilot Findings & Recommendations.