NEW YORK–They are two women divided by age, background and personal experience.
But Janette Hirshmann and Gladys Amaning, of Israel and Ghana, respectively,
have jointly developed a visionary program to provide this and future
generations of Ghanaian preschoolers with the initial tools needed to achieve
their full potential.
Click photo to download. Caption: Janette
Hirshmann (left) and Gladys Amaning (right), of Israel and Ghana, respectively, have jointly
developed a visionary program to provide this and future generations of Ghanaian
preschoolers with the initial tools needed to achieve their full potential. Credit: Maxine Dovere.
Hirshmann, 82, made
aliyah from apartheid South Africa in 1953. She is a master teacher of
children, the former director of the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International
Training Center in Haifa. She has taught children with special needs and the
hearing impaired, and she has planned courses for educators from around the
world. She now works with MASHAV (Israel’s Agency for International Development
Cooperation) to create outreach programs.
Amaning, more than
three decades younger than Hirshmann, is the director of education for the
Metropolitan District of Kumasi in Ghana. She holds a BA in home economics and
a Master’s in education. She came to Israel to learn from Hirshmann, an
educator nearly two generations her senior. They are colleagues, partners, and
“It was love at
first sight,” Hirshmann tells JNS.org.
Amaning recently brought news of their preschool education project in Ghana,
the Kumasi Haifa Training Program, to an event at the Consulate General of
Israel in New York. Kumasi is Ghana’s second largest city. In 2002, Kumasi
recognized the importance of preschool education and set a goal of providing
primary education for every child. Then, in 2006, the city was designated
to be a Millennium Initiative City (MCI), which allowed it to move forward with
its ambitious plans.
national early childhood education was a bone of contention,” Amaning tells JNS.org. “Teachers were not trained. The
setup was a mess.”
The MCI designation provides a framework, advice and connections but does not
provide financial assistance–that is where Israel came into the picture. The
head of MCI in West Africa, Abenaa Aboateng, met with MASHAV and came to the Golda Meir
Training Center at Israel’s Mt. Carmel. After reviewing the program and
visiting Israeli kindergartens, Aboateng invited MASHAV to partner in
developing in the Kumasi Early Childhood Education project. The State of Israel
agreed to participate and fund the training programs.
Hirshmann and her
Israeli colleague, Aviva Ben-Hefer, eventually visited Kumasi to “find out what
was on the ground.” What they saw was not encouraging. Very young children
seated on hard benches, spending long days in dark, stark, overcrowded
classrooms, harshly disciplined by a teacher equipped with a whipping cane.
Hirshmann and Ben-Hefer asked what Hirshmann called a “simple” question in
Ghana: “What can we do to help?” The answer is more complex.
In 2008, five Ghanaian educators, led by Amaning, took part in the Kumasi Haifa
Training Program, under the auspices of the MCI. For three weeks they learned
both theory and practical application at the Mt. Carmel Center with a group of
25 African educators, including Nigerians, Kenyans, and Ethiopians.
Participants, explained Hirshmann, pay only for airfare, while the Israeli
government pays for everything else, including touring throughout …read more