My Summer Internship Experience at TaRL Africa

Eyner Gamarra Flores, currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration in International Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, offers insights into his internship at TaRL Africa in the Headquarters office in Nairobi, Kenya.

I have always pursued involvement in the education sector by teaching reinforcement classes (Informal, complementary classes in university to reinforce concepts from lectures), volunteering as a math teacher for a non-governmental organisation( NGO), or teaching in an academy in my home country. Motivated by the stories of my grandparents, who faced limited or no access to basic education, and by my family’s deep appreciation for education, I have always felt the urge to be involved and contribute to the field.

Thus, having the privilege of hearing Dr. Rukmini Banerji, the CEO of Pratham – one of the organizations that played a vital role in developing TaRL Africa –speak in one of our classes at Harvard Kennedy School was pivotal in solidifying my decision to intern at TaRL Africa and immerse myself in the sector. One moment that stands out from Dr. Banerji’s presentation was when someone in the audience asked her about her motivation, and she pointed out that it was the children and seeing the substantial improvement in their learning outcomes.

The beginning of my internship was seamless, thanks to the constant support from TaRL Africa. My colleagues were open, welcoming and eager to teach, strengthen and discuss ideas, quickly allowing me to learn extensively about a new field.

My primary responsibilities included:

  • Developing strategies to sustain the TaRL approach in the northern states of Nigeria, which had observed significant improvements in foundational literacy and numeracy skills and wanted to maintain the approach in the long term.
  • Elaborating a sustainability strategy framework that could be adapted and applied to other contexts.
  • Drafting the initial steps of the programme review for TaRL Africa in Nigeria. 

Throughout my time at the organization, I learned the urgency and significance of the work the organization was doing, and I was deeply moved by the passion each individual had to tackle educational gaps and the profound sense of meaning behind each task, a passion that was really encouraging and contagious as well. Not only did I learn about implementing educational innovations, but I also felt deeply connected with the people working here. For instance, even though meetings with the Nigeria team were virtual, there was a clear sense of welcoming and caring about others that could be felt through the screen, as well as a sense of urgency, passion and extreme commitment to TaRL Africa’s goal.

During my internship, I was able to talk with school teachers and directors supporting the implementation, as well as with TaRL front-line personnel. These experiences made me realize how well-prepared the organization was, and reflecting on the scale of its operations across Africa (and on the efforts from other organizations to adopt the approach in other regions like Latin America) made me realize that large-scale change was possible. 

I also participated in the TaRL Bootcamp, a 2-week training organized by TaRL Africa and directed towards professionals across Africa aiming to implement the methodology in their countries. Learning directly from such passionate people was motivating and fostered really deep connections with each other.

These experiences taught me about the best practices and challenges associated with implementing and sustaining educational innovations. I understood the importance of fostering champions at all government levels, the value of an adequate and well-structured support system and of cascading the well-thought approach to reach a vast number of educators effectively, the important role evidence plays in making decisions and iterations to optimize the approach, and the pivotal role of funding, especially securing funding support from within government and/or donors at different implementation stages and effectively allocating resources to sustain the program. This final realization inspired my decision to develop my Second Year Policy Analysis – the capstone project of my master’s degree – on streamlining public financing and funding coordination for effectively addressing educational innovations (or broader development projects), as the issue seems to be present across sectors.

I am deeply grateful for my experience. The organization’s impact, the bonds I forged, and the team’s strong dedication left a mark on me, and the experience provided a fresh perspective on my purpose and led to lifelong friendships. 

 

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