Team teaching, the ALA way: How our holiday camps and Educator Program brings staff and alumni together

Welcome to the second in our two-part series on GSP’s Educator Program, an essential component of African Leadership Academy’s Global Summer Program, which sees educators from around the world team up with ALA alumni and members of ALA’s Entrepreneurial Leadership faculty to offer a unique leadership camp experience that enriches all participants.

GSP’s Educator Program, is an enriching model of educational development that facilitates the sharing of knowledge, skills and resources within ALA’s growing leadership community network. See how educators from around the globe interpret and implement what they have learnt here, and read on to discover…


Julia Paolillo

Program Director, ALU Rwanda EL faculty member
ALA Gap Year alum (2010-2011), Connecticut, New England

“After ALA I basically did anything I could to stay connected to ALA; in 2013 I returned as GSP Educator and led two camps that year. In 2014 I was Assistant Director. After graduating from university I moved to Mauritius ALU to teach Entrepreneurial Leadership, now I’m a member of the at EL faculty at ALU Rwanda in Kigali. I’ve led four GSP, but this is my first as Director.

How has it changed, if at all, over the years?

So much! It started as a fun way for foreigners outside SA and continent to explore Johanesburg while getting taught leadership skills, but it has been consistent in that we’re trying to get the ALA curriculum beyond the ALA bubble.

What is a program highlight for you?

The most impressive thing for me has been the scale. When GSP first started, it was 11 kids and Dave Tait (Entrepreneurial Learning Department Head) ; the next year, we had a bigger camp, then two camps. Now we regularly have camps of 60. So I think just the scale of students we have been able to touch has been incredible.

Secondly, for me, as an American watching kids who don’t come from the continent, and first discovering the shock of experiencing Africa – usually when we go to Maboneng or Soweto – and watching them grapple with the reality that SA is a land of contradictions, then finding similarities and find ways to relate with people they are working with is incredible.

BUT overall, it’s watching student take ownership of their experiences. That’s what leadership is, not theory, it’s also practice. We ask them to step up, take the initiative: ‘Who wants to be coordinator for tomorrow’s bus trip?’ for example. We do have people organising these, but it’s so much more impactful for students when we throw it back at them, and give them responsibility…

What has leading camps taught you?

So much. If you respect your students, you’ll get so much further – they’re works in progress, yes, but they’re also real people, and we they need to be taken seriously. In terms of managerial skills, the biggest growth is learning how to delegate; learning to take training wheels off my own bike. I have to trust that staff can get it together – so delegation and communications is key.

Oreoluwa Onabanjo

ALA Class of 2015- 2017 (Nigeria)
Currently studying Business communications and Marketing at Bentley University in Massachusetts

“GSP is like an abridged version of ALA – I’ve seen it from a different perspective, and now being able to transfer what I’ve learnt at ALA to others is totally different experience. I’m working with a team of people who are more experienced, and used to teaching people – but as an ALA alum, I know exactly what we’re teaching, so balancing that out has been an interesting process for me.

What, to you is the secret to GSP’s success?

Being able to work in a team; if there isn’t a strong bond between people leading the camp, there will be problems. If educators and directors aren’t on the same page… Effective communication and teamwork is important, as it helps in being able to handle a crisis, and work through that and play on each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

What is a program highlight for you?

To see growth mindset within the children; how they changed even in this short perod of time – walking in with preconceptions; and then seeing the impact on them is a major highlight.

What has leading camps taught you?

One, trying to find balance between friendly and firm; especially as I’m young; I’ve learned to appreciate teachers more. Also, the importance of preparation is another major thing – it reflects on the quality of your teaching. And generally, communication: how to be self-regulated and give adequate feedback while being empathetic to the student’s feelings and diverse backgrounds.

It’s crazy that, in a lot of African countries, young people are not valued – at gatherings, they’re not allowed to speak. One thing GSP, then ALA, taught me is that no matter your age, ideas should be valued – I try to give that to my students.

Salma Khai Ahmed

ALA Class of 2015-2017 (Morocco)
Now studying Political Science at the University of Rochester in New York

“I was in high school when I heard about ALA and GSP. I was determined to attend ALA, and applied, then decided to come to GSP to get a taste of ALA. At home I run an entrepreneurial leadership camp: Moroccan Youth Social Entrepreneurship – which is a 5-day camp in Rabat for young people from 15-19 to learn about social entrepreneurship. It took a year to design curriculum, and I also bring young entrepreneurs to speak to participants, as well as have a follow-up program, that includes finding sponsors to help them implement their ideas. We’re now in our third year, and have won many prizes, which I’m very proud of. This year, a professor from Cornell University will be delivering the keynote address at the closing ceremony.

How different is facilitating camps to participating in them?

It’s much more work than I thought it was. As a participant, I was impressed by the alumni: the way they spoke and taught – I thought it came naturally to them. Yes, as alums, we know the curriculum, but there’s a lot of training that goes on. It’s true that it helps that you’re alum and have been through it once, but it’s still a lot of work. The focus is on the participants – everything we do is based on them. We want them to have fun but we also want them to learn and to go back – for it to be an experience that can make them say: ‘GSP taught me this.. and this.’

What is a program highlight for you?

Seeing where the kids I’m teaching started, and where they will be at the end. I can see changes; I can see a lot happening already, especially with the shy kids, the Francophones, and those who didn’t think ideas were good enough to share. With a bit of push from myself and my colleagues, I can see a lot of kids gaining confidence in themselves. English was a barrier for me too, and the support I got from everyone helped a lot.

What has leading camps taught you?

That age is not a barrier. GSP and ALA taught me that I may be young, but I can do it. Here, we teach kids the same, that even though young people are not so involved in making decisions or taking responsibility, that we value their ideas. It’s crazy that, in a lot of African countries, young people are not valued – at gatherings, they’re not allowed to speak. One thing GSP, then ALA, taught me is that no matter your age, ideas should be valued – I try to give that to my students.