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"Seeing teachers' confidence grow as they gained new skills was one of the most rewarding parts of the experience"
Ian Gallagher, Key Stage 3 Coordinator – Mathematics, from Hastings High School in Leicestershire talks about his experience working with trainee teachers in Uganda
As part of its various charity initiatives, BlueSky supports the work of Crane, a partner of the international Christian children's charity Viva, in Uganda, which works to improve educational opportunities for young girls. Ian Gallagher key Stage 3 Coordinator - Mathematics from Hastings High School in Leicestershire was one of three teachers sponsored by BlueSky to visit Uganda and work with trainee teachers there to share expertise and best practice. He tells BlueSky about his experience below...
What inspired you to visit Uganda?
Before going to Uganda I had never experienced a culture facing such massive challenges, particularly in education and in improving opportunities for young girls. I was eager to visit and offer my own expertise to help wherever possible. As part of my current role I train PGCE students in the UK and wanted to pass on the skills that I've gained in the hope others can benefit. The challenges of doing this in another culture were also an incentive.
What were the challenges?
On arriving in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, the facilities in the schools we visited there were more or less what I had expected however there was a huge difference when we moved out of the city to a more rural area. The lack of basic facilities and resources at the school took me by surprise and was one of the biggest challenges we had to face on the trip.
In addition, the teachers in Uganda have a very limited subject knowledge, usually a knock on effect of having themselves not been properly taught. The teaching model that we take for granted in the UK with lesson objectives, learning aims and success criteria simply hasn't been taught to Ugandan teachers, many of whom have no formal training whatsoever.
Once at the schools I aimed to provide the teachers with more creative ways to teach maths topics in order to enliven lessons and help break this cycle. Training the teachers on how to differentiate work, for example between higher and lower ability students, was also an important part of the training. I've always been quite good at anticipating difficulties that learners might have before they have them and breaking topics down into more manageable steps to help weaker learners to understand. During my training sessions I aimed to transfer some of these skills to the teachers to help them identify potential barriers to learning before they arose and help them break topics down into more manageable chunks.
We also provided teachers with simple resources which they could take home with them, replicate and then use in their schools. Seeing the teachers' confidence grow as they gained new skills was one of the most rewarding parts of the experience.
What will you take away from your experience?
Visiting Uganda made me realise more than ever how incredibly lucky and well-resourced we are in the UK and that this can sometimes mean we become 'resource blind'. As part of the training that I delivered to the Ugandan teachers I tried to give them ideas on how to be more creative with the limited and basic resources that they have available. Since returning to the UK I've been thinking of new ways to teach things that I'd previously not considered, sometimes using quite basic resources.
Overall the thing that touched me most on the trip was the appreciation that both the children and teachers showed. The children towards their teachers and for the opportunity to be in school and the teachers towards us for being there to provide training and helping them to improve their practice.
Whilst challenging, the entire experience was incredibly rewarding and I would recommend it to any teachers keen to stretch themselves.
To find out more about Crane please visit their website https://www.cranenetwork.org/ If you are interested in volunteering yourself please contact Catherine Kneller at BlueSky on 01483 880004 or email Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org