Tip #409: Travel to Foreign Lands

“LECTURER, n. One with his hand in your pocket, his tongue in your ear and his faith in your patience.”  Ambrose Bierce

I am having the adventure of a lifetime. Because of projects with USAID, I have just spent 11 days conducting training in Lagos, Nigeria and am now in Amman, Jordan for a month to review and design curriculum as well as conduct training.

The quote above is very apt because the intent of both of these projects is to improve training by moving it from trainer-centered to participant-centered. In other words, my mission is to convince trainers in these countries to stop lecturing and to start using participatory learning activities.

First Stop: Nigeria

I conducted a four day train the trainer program for 15 folks (only 2 women) who conduct training for US AID in Nigeria for the Strengthening Health Outcomes through the Private Sector (SHOPS) project This is a five-year global USAID-funded project mandated to increase the role of the private sector in the sustainable provision and use of quality family planning, HIV/AIDS, and other health information, products and services.

Among its core objectives, SHOPS works to improve the viability of private health sector businesses and increase access to financing for the private health sector in order to improve their capacity to deliver high-quality reproductive health and family planning services and products.

The objective of my scope of work was to help the SHOPS/Banyan Global staff in Nigeria to improve their capacity to deliver effective training programs and assist with the re-design and upgrade of the training curricula for the private health sector providers.

As they came into the room, the participants began to take pictures of the kites, the agenda map, training sayings I’d posted on the wall, and me! They loved the candy and music and moving around for activities. I discovered that they LOVE to debate- that means that a module that is typically 20 minutes was over an hour. We began at 9, had lunch from 1:15 to 2 pm. and didn’t end until 5:45 p.m.- a good 45 minutes over the scheduled ending time. This was due to the fact that, wanting to respect their process, I didn’t make them stop debating in their small groups. Just one example: it took them over 30 minutes of strenuous arguing just to decide on a title for the training program they were designing! Good grief!

They were all pleasant, bright professional people (all of the men in suits and ties) and are taking the training very seriously. There was a lot of chatter and laughter- and their energy seemed to increase as mine flagged. I still hadn’t caught up on my lack of sleep during the flights over (7 hours from Detroit to Amsterdam and 7 hours from Amsterdam to Lagos, during neither of which was I able to sleep).

I decided to replace some small group work with individual activities, because I absolutely refused to be on my feet conducting training for 8 hours again the next day. (My major surgery had been 5 weeks earlier, so I didn’t really have much stamina).

Lunch was not good for me. It was (understandably) native Nigerian food, which meant that it was all too spicy for me- with the exception of some rice and fish. Well, the fish was very spicy but I cut it up and mixed it with the rice, so it was tasty. Unfortunately, it was also full of small bones that were even more difficult to find in the rice… By the time we got back to the hotel after 7 p.m., I was starved.

Although exhausting, it was a very gratifying day to see these folks, all of whom are lecturers, embrace the idea of accelerated learning and participatory learning activities. The evaluations were all very positive, with the only concern being the length of the class. Two thought it was too long, one didn’t think it was long enough… I decided to discuss this with the group the next day, when I planned to lay down some ground rules.

I really missed the two count down timers I’ve always used on my Power Point. When I upgraded my Mac operating system, it no longer supported whatever system the timers used. I went on line before I got to bed to try to find even a basic free timer that would work on a Mac. I thought that projecting the remaining minutes would help keep them on track. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any that worked with my current operating system.

In our next Tip, we’ll continue to discuss my Nigeria training experience.

May your learning be sweet.


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