Dave's Teacher Training Experience- Sierra Leone

 
 

It was on Twitter that I first saw the advert for Street Child’s International Teacher Training Programme and I suppose it came up at just the right time. I replied instantly expressing an interest in joining one of their programmes in the summer of 2017, which was only a couple of months ahead. Suppose you could say it was an impulsive act but the truth is I had been thinking about volunteering for a while.

A phone interview really got me thinking seriously about heading to Sierra Leone for two weeks, but it still felt a little surreal. It was the induction in London that made it less so. It had me hooked but a touch apprehensive - the other volunteers seemed great. I still didn’t know what to expect when I boarded at Manchester Airport. It was exciting but a touch scary. Street Child staff members, Laura and Sophie, were at the airport to meet us but unfortunately my bags were not…

The horrendous mud slide did throw many things up in the air, yet it only cemented our determination to work and play our part. We planned and prepared, ready to get involved and give it a go to improve teaching practice in Sierra Leone. What really sums up such an experience is the fact you only get out of things what you put into them. I know it’s an overused cliché but it was certainly true here.

Taking part in the 3-day programme in Kamakwie was tough and eye opening. So many barriers for Sierra Leonean teachers to overcome. We kept it simple and seemed to be well received. Facilities in school were pretty basic; small classrooms, no running water and limited resources were nothing that we were used to. Yet the local teachers were so welcoming and grateful for our presence it really was such a heart-warming experience.

Even better was the fact my luggage had finally arrived when we returned to Makeni. Hurrrrayyyy. However, we were all a little downbeat after our first experiences of supporting teachers. It felt like our contribution was such a small step. Yet if that was the case our second experience could not have been more different. The teachers in Kambia were both engaging and forward thinking, much more in touch with our teaching philosophies. It really was a pleasure to take part in. One outstanding memory was during a lunch break in Kambia, when we all went outside and played games with the local children, it was so much fun. Again, we stuck to our brief of keeping it simple but we were none the less forthright in our views about classroom discipline methods.

We returned to Makeni and our thoughts turned to the beach and the luxury of flushing toilets and a hot shower. However, once this need had been satisfied the last day or 2 were a slight anti-climax. Surroundings were idyllic but each of us was happiest in the classroom or on the back of a bike zipping round the chaotic streets of Makeni.

Personally, I was quite sad when our adventure ended. Yet so much had been achieved - we had all survived 17 days in a country with little infrastructure, indeed we were now all united in our love of Sierra Leone. It was an experience we would never forget, indeed it would ensure lifelong friendships had been made.