Visitors From Benin West Africa Tour Oswego County BOCES

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School Inspectors from Benin, West Africa toured the Oswego County BOCES (OCB) Career and Technical Education Center to gain knowledge about the vocational education module with the hopes of implementing a form of secondary technical education back home in their country. The school inspectors are part of a faculty exchange through SUNY Oswego’s Project SMART, a collaborative professional development program, and for the second time in two years chose to visit the OCB campus.

The thirteen-plus visitors, which consisted of the top educational minds in Benin, represented K-12 education as well as governmental agencies in the country. Members of the group have been working with educators in the U.S. to improve their text books and have been meeting with teachers in the area on ways to reform curriculum in their country. Others plan to purchase educational materials here that they cannot get at home.

They toured the BOCES campus with Ronald Camp, director of career and technical education at OCB and were particularly interested in the CTE curriculum and shops. Marcia Burrell, Professor of Education and co-director of Project SMART accompanied the group along with others from the college including Katie Laing, a graduate student in education who acted as translator for the French-speaking visitors. In the construction trades shop, one of the visitors asked about a special chair she noticed there; a rocking chair. Benoit Ahle, the group leader asked if it was a chair for mothers to rock babies, to which Camp answered that it could be used for rocking a baby or just relaxing. Ahle laughed and said, “Rocking chairs are the mother’s backs in our country.”

Benin has begun recently to open separate schools for specific vocational training offerings, but they are split from traditional education and students cannot learn about more than one vocation. When asked how many students are enrolled, Ahle’s answer was, “quite a lot.” He also indicated that they lack enough equipment for students to adequately learn from. The traditional French system of education is quite rigorous as well as expensive for a student in Benin to attend. One of the aims of these visits is to find ways to implement a combined education of vocational training as well as a comprehensive educational background for students who, for one reason or another, do not choose the traditional education course.

When the group returns to Benin they will report to the Ministry of Education about their visit, particularly their tour of the BOCES facility.

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