Carol Kranz is on a mission to change the way teachers are trained in Africa.

Kranz earned a doctorate in education from UCF in 2011 with a specialization in curriculum and instruction and African education. Through her work with the Rafiki Foundation, Kranz is working to raise the standard of living in parts of Africa by better preparing teachers and helping them with curriculum.

“Parents and children have great hope in the ability of education to improve the quality of their lives, but that hope is severely curtailed by the harsh, inequitable realities of the current educational system,” Kranz said.

Read on to learn more about how she’s applying what she learned at UCF to make a difference.

Where do you work and what do you do?

I am an educational consultant to the Rafiki Foundation, which builds and operates schools and orphanages in Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia. My current assignment is to develop the foundation’s early childhood and primary school teacher training programs within these 10 nations.

How would you describe education in Africa?

One way to summarize education in Africa is unequal. A small percentage of children receive a good primary education and matriculate through high school and university after which they assume well-paying jobs and leadership roles within their country. However, the majority of students are like a young girl I met at a rural school in Kenya.

Margaret was an eighth-grade student at Punda Milia—a small, rural or bush school in central Kenya. She was preparing to take the national primary examination which would determine whether she continued on to high school. Margaret, who was barefoot and dressed in a ragged school uniform, said she had scored 350 (out of 500) on her practice exams and hoped to attend Alliance—Kenya’s premier secondary school for girls. Her score, though a phenomenal result for a girl-child in a bush school, would not qualify her for Alliance. Margaret was bright, articulate and full of hope, yet in just a few weeks after the exam she would most likely marry a local boy, begin a family, and continue the cycle of abject poverty and ignorance that characterized the people of the region. Throughout Africa there are many Margarets, who to me epitomize the hope and futility of the African education system.

What kind of impact do you hope your work will have?

As a researcher, I want to help the Margarets of Africa improve the quality of their lives and realize their dream of education. My work concentrates on developing realistic, culturally appropriate programs, training and materials to alleviate the inequitable educational opportunities.

I believe that training teachers with sound pedagogical practices that promote higher levels of cognition and that nurture students’ creative and emotional development is the critical means for raising the quality of education throughout the continent. That conviction has privileged me to work with education ministers and heads of state such as President Museveni of Uganda to establish the new teacher training colleges.

What are your highlights from your work in Africa?

I have been working in various capacities in Africa for the past 16 years. Helping to establish the Rafiki Village Kenya was both a challenge and a great privilege. To see children who once had little likelihood of survival now have a future and the opportunity to be educated is deeply rewarding.

My current work of developing and establishing teacher-training colleges is also very fulfilling. The foundation’s program opens the doors of higher education to low-socioeconomic-status young adults and gives them the training they need to begin a teaching career. Meeting with these students and hearing their excitement at what they are learning and what they hope to do as teachers is very inspiring.

Rafiki primary students in Uganda enjoying library timeEDITPrimary students in Uganda enjoying library time (Photo courtesy of Carol Kranz)

How did the UCF doctoral program prepare you for your current position?

Though I benefited from every class I took as a doctoral student, the actual dissertation process led by Karen Biraimah was pivotal in developing me as a scholar and researcher in the field of African education.

The training I received through my field work in Kenya as well as the dissertation findings regarding the prescriptive pedagogical training within African teacher colleges are the foundation for my work.

What advice would you give to current students, and to those transitioning to life beyond school?

Approach each phase of the doctoral program with the expectation and passion of an explorer and with a deep commitment to work for the betterment of others using the knowledge, insight and skills acquired through your studies.