The Sunshine program, also called the English Excellence program, is part of the Skills for the Future program. The courses are focused on making English fun and accessible for the TuaRes girls in post-secondary school and in the Excellence program.
In Burkina Faso, English is taught from the sixth grade as part of the state curriculum. However, there are barriers that keep students from speaking and practically using the language. In the schools in which we work, it is not uncommon to have more than 100 students in a classroom with one teacher. The sheer number of students in a classroom often makes student-teacher interaction nearly impossible and group activities too difficult to manage. Thus, the students rarely have the opportunity to practice speaking English to the teacher and to one another. The exams are based on grammar rules and academic texts. As we are able to offer the Sunshine courses to groups of 20 TuaRes girls (or fewer) at a time, we have the opportunity to be more flexible and dynamic.
At TuaRes, we have developed our own educational materials that are full of interactive activities including dialogues, games, songs, and group activities. While our materials are aligned with the state curriculum learning goals, the TuaRes materials go a step beyond to make the concepts practical, useful, and engaging. The materials also work to teach pupils about the English-speaking world, both near and far. Students read about professional role models from Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa, while also reading poetry from the United States. They learn to purchase a bus ticket, about their rights as citizens, and to analyze news articles.
The Sunshine courses are taught by certified teachers who, for the most part, already work in the schools. As there are fewer students in the classroom, the teachers have the opportunity to interact with students differently than in their larger classes. TuaRes has also developed a specific pedagogy for how we expect the Sunshine classes to be taught. Often classes in Burkina Faso can follow a teacher-centered pedagogy, where the teacher speaks, and students write their lessons to learn by memorization. In the Sunshine courses, we ask the teachers to follow a student-centered approach. We emphasize comprehension over memorization. We expect a language classroom to be noisy with students speaking and teachers asking questions. The teachers that we work with are greatly dedicated to their students and we are grateful for their hard work and their willingness to adjust to the TuaRes method.
The Sunshine courses are focused on fun, practical education in order to foster an interest and passion for the English language. Speaking English is a valuable skill in the formal job market in Burkina Faso. We are extremely gratified to have one of our former Sunshine students, Véronique, currently pursuing her master’s degree in English and now teaching in the Sunshine program.