Ernestine Akouavi Akakpo-Gbofu of FENASYET Togo won the 2007 Albert Shanker Education Award for her outstanding work in the field of early childhood education, particularly the development of pedagogical tools. She received the award at the EI Congress in Berlin last July.
Ernestine Akouavi Akakpo-Gbofuat the EI World Congress
1. How did you start working in this field?
It came out of a desire to improve the quality of education. Games are important for children. You need to develop educational games and materials that are fun and that they will understand. For example, I wrote a book called ‘La sorcière et le SIDA’ (‘The Witch and AIDS’) to educate young children on the ways that HIV can be transmitted. The book aimed to counteract certain myths prevailing in society and to get the message across to children – and their parents – that precautions need to be taken to avoid HIV infection.
2. Why is early childhood education so important?
It is important to start early to get children into good habits. Already at the age of six, children need to have certain life skills. The school is the place where they start to learn about respect for example. And the earlier, the better. We make them think and pose questions at a young age. One observes big differences between children who have received education before the age of six and those who have not.
3. You have provided an inspiration to many during your career. What advice would you give to those teachers starting out in early childhood education?
When you love children, you can achieve a lot. In Togo we do not have much in terms of funding, but what we do have is a lot of good will. I would emphasise in particular the importance of training. Training is essential. That is where a good career has to start.