Reproducing an article courtesy of the Association of Childhood Education International (ACEI)
Diplomatic Virtues to Build Consensus
Education Diplomacy uses the skills of diplomacy to bridge divides between sectors, diverse actors, and borders to address education challenges and move transformative education agendas forward. The practice of Education Diplomacy includes interactions that cultivate partnerships, create shared value, and shape consensus about mutually beneficial solutions that position education as a force for positive change in the world. Patrick Makokoro, founder of the Nhaka Foundation in Zimbabwe, offers this sage advice for practicing Education Diplomacy to lead and cultivate the partnerships that can bring about transformative change: “Patience and perseverance are virtues; [we can build on] small gains to achieve bigger successes. Confrontation with governing systems results in polarization, and thus relations have to be cordial and professional.” In this way, interactions can create the shared value and consensus necessary for broad-based change.
Collaboration to shape ECD policy
“In shaping policies at various levels,” Mr. Makokoro says, “there is a need for utilizing multi-sectoral synergies, collaborations and alliances in influencing policy changes and to be respected by government and partners.”
To advance early childhood education in Zimbabwe, Mr. Makokoro did just that, using Education Diplomacy to build national, regional, and international networks and leverage them to advance national early childhood development (ECD) policy.
Mr. Makokoro founded the Nhaka Foundation in 2007. The Foundation works across all 10 provinces in Zimbabwe and “provides access to education, ECD basic health care, and daily sustenance for the orphaned and vulnerable children in the communities it serves. It provides support to ensure the creation of a physical environment conducive to learning, growth, and the optimal development of all children.”
Developing Networks for Education Strategy Planning
After several years of direct service, Mr. Makokoro saw the need to coordinate and network with other child service providers. He, therefore, created the Zimbabwe Network of Early Childhood Development (ZINECDA), a national umbrella organization for ECD in 2012. In addition, the Nhaka Foundation is also a member of the Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI). Through its leadership and engagement in these two important networks, the Nhaka Foundation was able to participate “fully in the shaping of the education planning through participating in the planning process of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE).” These two networks formed part of the civil society coalition informing Zimbabwe’s Education Sector Strategy Plan 2016-2020, developed with the Global Partnership for Education (http://www.globalpartnership.org/content/2016-2020-education-sector-plan-zimbabwe).
Stakeholder Engagement for Implementing Policy
In addition to influencing Zimbabwe’s national education strategy, the Nhaka Foundation also helps provide oversight for implementation of the strategic plan at various levels, which includes increasing direct access to education in over 30 schools in two provinces of Zimbabwe. In Mr. Makokoro’s words, “Issues of access and quality need to be addressed by harnessing all major stakeholders from the public and private sectors, civil society, academia, professional associations, foundations, donor agencies, and local communities.”
Harnessing stakeholders involves engagement in regional and international networks as well. Mr. Makokoro became a founding member of the African Early Childhood Network, and the Nhaka Foundation also actively participates in the Association for Childhood Education International’s meetings and activities. Mr. Makokoro stresses, “Nations need to begin looking at these cross-country peer collaborations and learning as the gateway to promoting diversity as well as learning from one another.” He sees technology as one of the tools that can facilitate these cross-border collaborations, even at the teacher and classroom level.