In mid-November, Dr. Deborah MacCullough, Dean of the School of Education, collaborated with educators from the Democratic Republic of Congo on an initiative known as the Elephant Project, facilitated through the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI). Also involved in the project are faculty from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) and Cedarville University.
In 2011, Dr. MacCullough had taught at a Christian Educators institute in Nigeria with Mike Epp, ACSI’s Assistant Vice President Global – Europe, CIS and Africa, and Samson Makhado, the ACSI Africa leader, helping teachers understand the implications of a biblical worldview in education. Soon after the institute, Bishop Nyamuke of the Churches of Christ in Congo, one of the key leaders in the Protestant church in Congo approached Dr. Makhado to discuss a major problem he saw in the Christian Schools in the Congo. The schools were Christian in name, but the teachers did not really know what it meant to teach from a biblical worldview. Dr. Makhado immediately thought of his colleagues from Nigeria and the connection was made.
Bishop Nyamuke’s vision is to train 161,000 teachers serving 5.8 million children from all levels of society. The scope of the project led to its nickname: The Elephant Project, referencing the “way to eat an elephant – one bite at a time.” When Dr. Makhado shared that phrase with Bishop Nyamuke, he replied, “We don’t have deep freezers in the Congo, so you better eat fast!”
“The project’s long-term goal is the transformation of eighteen thousand four hundred and fifty six K-12 Protestant schools in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” says Samson Makhado. “The desired organizational transformation through the DRC Elephant Project is whole school improvement with integration of a biblical worldview being central to the process.”
The goals of the project are ambitious, but the team is stepping out in faith. Dr. Brad Oliver, Associate Dean in IWU’s School of Educational Leadership puts it well, “This is God’s project. We didn’t go seek it; God directed it to us.”
This past summer, a group met at ACSI’s headquarters in Colorado Springs to figure out how to “eat the elephant.” Dr. Oliver is a project management specialist and he helped the team lay out “deliverables” for different groups to tackle. Two of these deliverables were that the group train master teachers to train the other teachers in what biblical integration is and what a Christian School should be. The other one is that they prepare the materials to train the teachers.
The meetings in November gathered the team to begin working on the two projects. In the week, the team laid out a plan for the instructional modules that they will be writing for the teacher training, including several objectives/outcomes for these modules. They then built a plan for how we are going to “train the trainers.”
Dr. MacCullough will be preparing the materials for one of the modules and, Lord willing, teaching it in June 2013 in Kinshasa, DRC. The plan is for each module to train 27 teachers for three days, then observe and help as those teachers train a full school of teachers in the same three-day structure. It is the team’s desire that the Congolese will train their own teachers from a distinctly Christian and distinctly African point of view. “Our job is to bring our expertise in education and assist them in training their own teachers,” Dr. MacCullough says. “We hope that the training we do will begin the process of training 161,000 teachers. We are also praying that the work that is done will lead us to helping all of Africa with Christian Education.”