South Sudan teachers seek to rebuild classrooms, country through ASU program

April 3, 2015

In the world’s youngest country – fractured for decades by ethnic civil wars – South Sudan educators are attempting to rebuild their classrooms and their country at the same time.

To that end, 15 secondary school teachers from South Sudan, and one from Rwanda, are currently immersed in a customized four-month program developed by faculty at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. group photo on steps of Old Main on Tempe campus Download Full Image

“Because of the conflict and the lack of infrastructure, the South Sudanese are significantly behind in terms of technology advancement and business development,” said Alissa Koerner, senior project manager of Teachers College’s Center for Advanced Studies in Global Education, unveiled in fall 2014. “In spite of the volatile situation, they are trying to restore their country’s educational system, and teachers are a very important part of that.”

Emphasis on equity in education

The first-ever cohort of South Sudan fellows includes Umia Wurube, who teaches at Juba Girls School in the country’s capital of Juba. He said the ongoing civil wars have left an entire generation of children without an education – most of them girls. Recent findings by BRAC (formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee) South Sudan show that only 6.2 percent of the girls in that country complete primary school.

Wurube said his nonprofit-funded school was sanctioned by the South Sudan government to help reduce female dropout rates, noting that his students feel “much more free” to study in a girls-only environment. It is part of a larger effort in his country to close the gender gap in both education and employment, he added.

“Of course, the bigger purpose is to eventually empower these women economically,” Wurube said. “By encouraging them to go to school, they will become financially independent. There are a number of traditions and beliefs that the woman should only rely on the man. The government is trying to address these gaps.”

Equity is a key emphasis of the new South Sudan Education Fellows Program, funded through a generous investment from businessman and philanthropist Ed Eisele. According to Koerner, the in-depth curriculum focuses on teacher leadership, effective instructional methods and technology in the classroom, derived in part from Teachers College’s highly acclaimed undergraduate teacher preparation program called iTeachAZ.

She noted that the fellows bring with them their own teaching experience ranging from two to 20 years.

“The 23-year-old of the group knows more about technology, while the fellow who has been teaching for 20 years knows more about classroom management and teaching to objectives,” Koerner said. “So they support each other in developing all of these skills.”

Partnering with ASU Preparatory Academy

For their field experience, the fellows formed a partnership with ASU Preparatory Academy, touring its Phoenix and Mesa campuses with student guides and Josephine Marsh, ASU faculty in residence. The fellows had lots of questions for the young students and were particularly impressed with their confidence and willingness to share what they were learning, even the kindergartners, said Debby Kray, ASU university supervisor.

The 16 fellows also are being paired with 16 middle school students and several high school students for a multi-session writing workshop called The Writing Exchange. After interviewing the fellows and working with them to write a biographical profile of each one, the Middle School Ambassadors will introduce the South Sudan teachers to their classmates at a Prep Talk in April.

“The goal of the field experience is to connect the theory that the fellows are taught in their classes to the learning strategies currently in use in American schools,” Kray said. “We hope to give them new tools they will be able to adapt and apply to their schools back home.”

Bringing computers to African classrooms

Observing how teachers and students use technology in ASU Preparatory Academy classrooms has inspired Wurube to work hard to introduce computers in South Sudan schools where the current lack of infrastructure often means limited or no electrical power. In Rwanda, however, access to technology is improving thanks to expanding fiber-optic networks and a government program that leases computers to teachers, said fellow Alice Muhimpundu.

“Twenty years back we had genocide, we had a bad history,” she said. “But now we are working hard to make our country better. We have the highest number of women in government in all of Africa. And now our students can receive nine years of education for free.”

Muhimpundu teaches at Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, a residential community and high school founded in 2008 by South African-born philanthropist Anne Heyman who died last year. It takes in youth who have lost both parents either to genocide or HIV/AIDS. Approximately 500 Rwandans ages 14 to 21 live and study there.

At first, the traumatized children receive only intensive counseling, Muhimpundu said. Later, they are transitioned into the academic program where they study English, math and electives of their choosing. After passing national exams, many of her students have continued on to college – three of them currently on scholarship at ASU.

“When they come to us, they have psychological problems,” she said. “At first, we dry out their tears and start their counseling. Then, after that, we give them hope and show them they have a bright future. We show them they can do anything!”

Written by Judy Crawford

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ASU study shows online education to be key driver in university sustainability strategies

April 6, 2015

A new report from Arizona State University indicates that the development of online education programs can be a significant component of an institution’s sustainability strategy based on greater socio-economic impact for a smaller environmental footprint per degree.

Using ASU Online as a case study, the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives’ Global Sustainability Solutions Services determined that the increased access to degrees through online education creates socio-economic benefits of as much as $545,000 or more per undergraduate degree over the lifetime of the graduate while also reducing the carbon footprint by at least 30 metric tons of carbon dioxide. stock photo of hands typing Download Full Image

“ASU Online’s substantial growth not only increased access to higher education and provided an additional revenue stream to ASU, but also played a key role in the university’s sustainability strategy and shows how sustainability permeates through all aspects of an enterprise’s programs,” said Dan O’Neill, general manager of the Global Sustainability Solutions Services. “This report demonstrates how technology and education merge to affect the triple bottom line of economy, society and environment that defines sustainability practice, a cornerstone to ASU.”

The carbon footprint reduction was based on significantly decreased car travel coupled with avoiding the building or rebuilding of facilities to accommodate traditional classroom settings. The socio-economic value was calculated through established formulas to determine lifetime earnings and social services impacts of college graduates.

The study, funded through a contribution from Dell, also determined that online education and the development of information and communication technology to support the required platforms leads to further/subsequent/more rapid innovation of technology and facilities that support online programs. It was estimated that within the next 20 years, nearly 100 percent of an institution’s course, both traditional and online, will be delivered on the same technology platforms.

“Dell is extraordinarily excited to collaborate with Arizona State University, the largest public university in the country, on this research,” said David Lear, executive director of sustainability programs at Dell. “The study findings show that technology can unlock multiple layers of social, economic and environmental value, especially in the field of education, enabling ASU to plan for a growing student population while staying within existing resource limitations. At Dell, we are committed to working with partners and customers to ensure that the net positive value of the technology we provide, creates 10 times more benefit than the resources it takes to manufacture and use those products. This net positive approach is a capstone goal of Dell’s Legacy of Good 2020 Plan and the findings of ASU’s net positive research reinforce that aspirational goal.”

ASU Online enrollment data shows that the typical online education student is a 31-year old female, ten years older than a traditional undergraduate. This demographic indicates that online education also allows for a greater diversity of people to have access to degrees and greater lifetime earnings.

The outcomes and impacts of this report and online education will be discussed as part of a panel at the 2015 ASU+GSV Summit, a leading global conference dedicated to learning innovation and technology, on April 7. The panel will be moderated by O’Neill and feature Leah Lommel, assistant vice president and chief operating officer of ASU Online and EdPlus; Bruno Sarda, director of Global Sustainability Operations at Dell; and Jon Phillips, director of worldwide education at Dell.

The full report can be downloaded at

Jason Franz

Senior manager, Marketing and Communications, Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives