What do you do when a training event you recently offered gets very positive feedback? Judging by the Education Department of the General Conference in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, you recharge and do it again, this time even better and in a global setting.
On February 15-19, 2017, 239 Seventh-day Adventist educators from across the African continent and adjacent Indian Ocean islands met in Kigali, Rwanda for the first of four planned worldwide regional conferences on Seventh-day Adventist Education. The participants, who came from the three regions—or divisions—of the world church in Africa, represent 45 percent of the 8,208 Seventh-day Adventist schools around the world, 39 percent of its 102,779 teachers, and 52 percent of its nearly 2 million students.
The event marked the first phase of the implementation of a decision made at the well-received Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Conference on Seventh-day Adventist Education at the world church headquarters last October. At that conference, hosted during Annual Council 2016—a major annual business meeting of the world church—i t was agreed to extend the same kind of training and discussion then offered to the members of the Executive Board of the world church to other church educational leaders and educators on the ground and around the world.
“Annual Council 2016 voted to authorize the Education Department, in collaboration with the various world divisions—or regions—to develop a guiding philosophy and a worldwide, regionally responsive plan for Seventh-day Adventist education,” said Lisa Beardsley-Hardy, education director of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, when explaining the rationale for these regional events.
The topics mentioned in the objectives discussed include establishing measurable goals to increase the number of schools and Adventist students, increasing retention and academic excellence, developing educational resources for alternative models of education, and identifying innovations which may serve to enhance the affordability and sustainability of Seventh-day Adventist schools.
Similar conferences are planned for other regions in the next few months, as the Education Department tries to cover every major division, or region, of the world church.
“At these conferences, participants will formulate educational plans that incorporate local, national and regional priorities and objectives,” said Beardsley. “It is also expected that they make recommendations to Annual Council in October 2017 on how to achieve higher visibility for education globally”.
Besides small group discussions and plenary sessions, participants of the Rwanda conference enjoyed devotional messages by church leaders, moments of worship on Friday evening and Saturday, and even a visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center on Saturday afternoon.
Most participants were not shy at expressing their appreciation for the event.
“The conference provided me with many ideas to enhance my leadership,” said one of the participants. “I would like this conference to take place more often, and to consider including school board chairs, […] treasurers, and even pastors. ”
Next LEAD regional conference is slated to take place from May 30-June 4 in Slovenia.