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Our Ongoing “Pathway to Transformation” with AISA’s DEIJ Collaborative

By Constance Darshea Collins
Our Ongoing “Pathway to Transformation” with AISA’s DEIJ Collaborative

The Association of International Schools in Africa (AISA) has been a leading organization in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ,) continually demonstrating what educational institutions can achieve with thoughtful, intentional action. AISA goes beyond mere rhetoric, actively engaging in introspection, course correction, and elevating the voices of educators who have historically existed in the margins. The transformation of its board leadership, in response to educator feedback, now better mirrors the diversity of its member schools. The Board’s decision to also include the DEIJ work as a strategic outcome signaled a significant change. This change aligns with the creation of their Wellbeing for All Design Team and recent publication,  Pathways to Transformation, a comprehensive DEIJ guide for educators and school leaders who are committed to creating inclusive and equitable learning environments for all students and staff.

In 2021, AISA introduced Affinity Groups to empower those with shared experiences or identities, nurturing community and belonging. The AISA DEIJ Collaborative, facilitated by Peter Bateman, Joel Llaban, Shelley Maldonado, Matthew Steuer, and Maipelo N’Guessan exemplifies this initiative. It's a collective space for all educators passionate about equity, those who strive to cultivate schools where students’ identities are affirmed, see representations of themselves in all aspects, and understand the intrinsic value of themselves and others. The collaborative differs from the other affinity groups as it is not tied to a particular identity group but united by a shared commitment to these core values of equity and inclusion.

For me, the collaborative has been a transformative learning space. Last school year, we delved into “stories of harm and hope,” sharing narratives from our schools to discover tools and strategies for change, often challenging the status quo. In my role as a DEIJ leader, finding solidarity is vital for both my leadership and personal wellbeing. Realizing we're not alone in our triumphs and challenges is both comforting and motivating, driving us to persist against those who wish us to just “move on.” We press on, fueled by our commitment to identity-centered education and advocating for those silenced or marginalized in our institutions. As a Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) educator, the Association for International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) was my first source of deep motivation. And now, AISA has broadened and recontextualized my involvement and understanding of what DEIJ means for other marginalized identities - particularly in Africa.

As educators across Africa, we have found that engaging with peers across the world from Dakar to Cape Town, Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and beyond – and by including heads of school, educators, assistant teachers, support staff, board members, parents, and students – enriches the depth of our understanding. In the AISA DEIJ Collaborative, we confront hard truths together, like the grave underrepresentation of people of color and women, especially African nationals, in leadership roles, and support each other in navigating our respective institutions’ progress along their DEIJ pathway.

This school year, AISA's DEIJ Collaborative is journeying through Pathways of Transformation. Each month, we focus on a different section of the AISA DEIJ Guide, with sessions led by thought leaders and contributors. I had the honor of leading the First Steps section alongside the brilliant Joel Jr. Llaban, while Peter Bateman and Maipelo N’Guessan facilitated thought-provoking sessions on Strategic Thinking and Teaching and Learning, respectively. Upcoming, Elmeka Henderson will guide us in learning around Support for Students and Staff.

These sessions prompt us to engage in exploring the chapters of the AISA DEIJ Guide authored by insightful leaders worldwide, and then come together to participate in reflective dialogue, enabling us to contextualize and integrate these learnings into our respective (and different) learning environments. As an equity-centered educator, it’s cathartic for me to share space with mission-driven colleagues, exchanging stories, strategies, and perspectives. Collaborating globally is essential for driving systemic change in historically inequitable institutions. I invite you to join our conversation and collectively work towards a more joyful, loving future.


Constance Darshea Collins is an educational leader committed to DEIJ. As the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the International School of Uganda, she focuses on community engagement, wellbeing, and DEIJ, leveraging her background as a social studies educator. Her international experience in Switzerland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa, and Uganda has deepened her appreciation for cultural diversity and her dedication to equity and justice in education. 

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