Global Reach: Grantee Partners

KODA/Village Schools Transformation Network

Context:

Every year, around 4,500 students graduate from education faculties as classroom teachers. Within the education faculty curriculum, there are no opportunities for learning or gaining practical experience. Upon graduation, there is a high likelihood that student teachers will be appointed to a rural school within their first year in the profession, as appointment system is centralized in Turkey. Also, the obligatory public service of at least 4 years usually occurs in the least preferred schools, often meaning rural schools that are located far from the metropolitan centers. There is no exact data but the estimation is that there is a possibility around 80% for teachers to start their career with obligatory service of 4 years in rural schools.

Rural schools have unique challenges; often much smaller with multi-grade classrooms and teachers that work alone and have additional workload. Resources of the school are scarce and support from families tend to be very limited. If prepared for these challenges before appointment, student teachers can better cope with problems right from the start of their career. KODA fieldwork suggests that being able to adapt to rural schools and to become changemakers within, necessitate high self-confidence, socio-emotional skills and social capital. If gained before working in rural schools, these skills would benefit student teachers in their careers. To this end, the program was designed for student teachers to be better prepared for teaching in rural schools and to create real impact in rural communities.

Student teachers tend to come from lower class or lower-middle class families and mostly grew up in smaller towns or villages as well. They often choose teaching as a profession since it is seen as a guarantee for their employment thus their future, since the majority of teachers are state employees. These young people at universities, now student teachers, often have very limited opportunities to explore and discover themselves. They spend most of their time preparing for a very competitive centralized, multiple choice university exam. During university, they do not have the opportunity to fill this gap, except for a number of universities that are located in metropolitan centers. Many of these universities and their respective education faculties, are similar to high schools in the sense that students do not have much agency, school administration is very hierarchical, knowledge is transmitted through more theoretical and teacher-centered methods. In such an environment, KODA enriches the lives of young people beyond their vocational development; it provides them the chance to put what they learn into practice, to lead teams and cooperate, to see what is beyond their university, to meet new people, to understand what it means to volunteer and how nonprofits work, and to believe in their own potential to make a difference.

Moreover, teaching is one of the professions considered to be socially most suitable for women and as such, preferred by young women, So, this lack of self-development is amplified for female students, and by motivating female students to be more active, KODA programs help to achieve gender equality. It is important to provide youth with opportunities where they can take action and empower themselves through knowledge and experience. With KODA, female students have increased opportunity for interaction, meeting their peers from other regions thus have the opportunity to enter in various social spheres. Also, most of the rural school teachers invited to the program as guest speakers are female; providing role models for future female student teachers.

Organization:

KODA is a network of mainly primary school level rural teachers preparing for their first assignments as teachers. They aim to create a youth-based peer support and training community to increase the personal and vocational capacity of youth (20-24) during their university training years by supplementing formal education with practical and supportive skill development. Ultimately, KODA’s goal is for these young teachers to have the personal and vocational skills to be changemakers and leaders in rural communities, working with children and youth to maximize their potential and empower them for their future.

Founded in 2016, KODA has quickly been able to establish themselves as a leader in a very unique and niche space of youth development among teacher candidates, piloting their program in 3 universities to date: Izmir-Ege University, Samsun-19 Mayis University, and Mus-Alparslan University. To date, 70 student teachers attend the program. According to initial assessments, the program achieved its goal of increasing the job readiness of student teachers. Establishing connections to other peers as well as experienced educators have not only increased the vocational success but also self-confidence, social capital, and other core life skills, leading KODA to realize that their programs are very valuable spaces for youth development.

In a short period of time, KODA has achieved a great deal: 1) The Ministry of Education recognized KODA workshops and expressed their desire to collaborate on expanding the program. 2) In 2018, earned the Ibrahim Bodur Social Entrepreneurship award by Kale Holding, one of the biggest holdings in Turkey. 3) The KODA young teacher community in Harran-Sanliufa (southeastern Turkey) were recognized by the Governor of Harran and promoted as headmasters in schools and as officials in the Projects Departments of the Governor’s office. KODA is also a member of AcikAcik platform, an NGO transparency register that certifies financials and operational effectiveness. The founder of KODA Mine Ekinci is herself from a village and studied in a village school, going on to university and obtain a Masters Degree in Education from Harvard University. She founded KODA with a vision to improve the professional and personal development of young teachers not only for their well being but to also contribute to rural communities in a positive and supportive way.

Current Grant:

EMpower’s 3rd grant to KODA will support the vocational development of youth (20-24, 600 student teachers) training to become rural teachers, which will ultimately impact the lives of thousands of school children through its First Step Towards Village Schools Program.

You can support our work with KODA/Village Schools Transformation Network and our other grantee partners.

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