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Teaching in Tanzania: A Rewarding Experience

Rachel Savin and pupil at her school in Kisoloi, TanzaniaRachel Savin spent four months of her gap year teaching ‘underachieving' children in Tanzania on a placement arranged by Africa & Asia Venture.  She found it a rewarding experience. Read her story.

Teaching these kids is like nothing else. Of course, when people ask you at home "ohh, are they really desperate to learn? I bet they must be so well behaved", you think NO! Maybe slightly better behaved than some kids in British schools, but at the end of the day, they are still 10 and 11 year old boys and girls. One boy I had to chase around the class room before he sat down and got on with his work! But the biggest difference between children here and children there is the actual difference of abilities within the classes. You had some who got (nearly) every exercise they were set correct, and others who couldn't read in their own language, let alone in English. This is where teaching in pairs really came into its own. Roo and I would lead a starter activity with the whole class, often word search or hangman- a recap relating to the previous class, or leading to the current lesson topic. Then one of us would lead the main part of the lesson as the other sat with those less able. In Kisoloi standard 5 I spent a lot of time with Benson, Daudi and Abdalla, and Roo tutored a group of boys in the Nshara class. A A few of them could write but only because they could copy from the child next to them!few of them could write, but only because they were capable of copying the child next to them- but they definitely didn't understand what they were writing. We went from teaching them the alphabet, helping them with pictures and words in Kiswahili, and encouraging them to think of more words beginning with the letters we covered each lesson. From there we went on to teaching sounds like ‘ch' and ‘sh'. It was so rewarding to see them learning and improving, especially since we had a whole four months to watch their improvement. But the best part was the satisfaction they got out of it themselves. These were the ‘underachieving' kids; the ones that teachers left behind because they were unable to keep up. So to see Daudi's excitement at recognising letters of the alphabet, and being desperate to beat Abdalla to answer the question was something exceptionally special. Daudi constantly interrupted me mid sentence with a big grin and pointing out letters and sounds! For once these boys were being given the chance to be good at something academic and not outshone by the rest of the class. I was sent a book called ‘Sungura na Kobe' by a family friend- ‘The Hare and the Tortoise'. On one side of each page the story was in English, and on the other was the Kiswahili translation. By the end of the term Benson had managed to read the entire book in Kiswahili. The modest smile at the realisation of what he had achieved will never leave me!

Rachel and her volunteer partner Rosie with their class at a school in Kisoloi, TanzaniaIt goes without saying that my five months with AV were unforgettable. I can't say that there's a day that goes by when I don't think of my fellow AVs, of the children I taught, the people I befriended and the things I saw and did. The structure of the project enabled all of this. It gave us all the chance to get to know each other so fast and so well. The knowledge that we were all doing the same thing for the same amount of time gave the group a real sense of togetherness which has never gone away. The level of support from AV was, we all felt, perfect. Having just left school, we wanted to be independent, but were not quite ready to be all alone in an unfamiliar continent. AV was there as our invisible safety net. We felt independent; we travelled when and where we wanted; we made our friends and we taught our lessons, liaising with the school. Yet we knew that we had support if we did need it. It also meant that we had a duty. Through AV we had committed to teaching and could not ignore that. However, I have to say that this thought never actually crossed my mind. I never considered it as a duty to AV, but a personal duty. I had committed myself, and therefore did not want to let my school and my pupils down. It was much more than being part of an organisation; it was my role within a community.

The independence we had out there helped me in many ways. I believe it helped me develop more independent thought, become comfortable and able to cope with unfamiliar situations and circumstances and even more willing to accept new challenges. We had to live by ‘Africa Time'- plans and timings often went out of the window! So we learnt to adapt. The independent travel was a kind of freedom I had never experienced before. Some things we planned in advance, other things we decided to do the night before, or that afternoon. The fun, the excitement, the ignorance of not knowing where we'd be the next day meant that there was no point in worrying. We were not strangers to East Africa, but had over the previous four months developed an understanding of the culture and language. We were travellers rather than tourists, and felt that our sensitivity to these countries was appreciated by the people that we met. Volunteering enabled this, and the travel was the perfect end to an unforgettable five months.

Rachel Savin's teaching placement in Tanzania was arranged with Africa & Asia Venture.<-->

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