Being a teacher must be hard. I remember my teachers and I realize now how much many of them must have wanted me to just disappear forever from their classrooms. I wasn’t the best behaved little boy, and I definitely had a streak of behavior issues. Beyond dealing with behavior stuff it must be hard to be confident in what you are teaching at times if you yourself were not the best student. Teaching is an art, and I don’t think someone needs to be brilliant with the subject…they just need to be able to converse, dialogue, display, and nurture effectively. But if teaching is hard in America, can you even imagine what teaching in a rural area of a neglected corner of Sudan must be like? Here is a school in Hamesh Koreb:
In some of the assessing and questioning we have done we have found that most teachers in the communities we work in only have an 8th grade education and virtually no formal training for their work. Furthermore, their classrooms are up to 5o kids, all of whom are hungry and/or thirsty since there is no food or water near the school, and there is no supportive PTA or parent teacher meetings because the parents are uninvolved and typically don’t care because they don’t understand the real value of education for their children. In order to address the dire water situation in the schools my organization built this for the main school in the large, regionally influential town of Hamesh Koreb:
But water is only part of the solution in Hamesh Koreb. It keeps the boys from having to walk a long distance from school and helps increase sanitary practices (latrine use, hand washing, etc.), but the kids still go hungry, and their teachers still don’t have much of a grasp on a positive pedagogical approach.
To solve the food issue we are starting to work with the UN’s World Food Programme to (hopefully) start school feeding at the school for all 1000 boys in attendance . Food will be prepared at the school to encourage attendance and reduce dropout. Additionally the focus of increasing community acceptance for education is a very important aspect of the project. Most people don’t see the value of a non-Koranic education for their children and they hesitate in allowing their children to be gone half the day when they could be herding goats/camels or working at home with their mothers. The general acceptance of education is the only way to boost boy’s education but it is also very important, in some ways more important (if you ask me), to foster this acceptance in order to increase community support of girl’s education (of which there is currently close to none). So, food is coming…that takes care of water and food…now what about parent involvement?
We have been forming loose Parent Teacher Associations within several villages, including Hamesh Koreb. The basic purpose is to give an introductory training to some interested parents on what the school provides, who the teachers are, and why it matters. It is a long road to 100% acceptance, but some parents have begun caring a little bit more and seeing why their child benefits from attendance.
Finally, we come to the teachers. How to help them? Well, we organized a 10 day teacher training that pulled 40 teachers from across the locality, from various towns and villages, plopped them in Hamesh Koreb, and worked with the Kassala State Ministry of Education to provide a training that covered pedagogy and focused on a couple of important subjects as well.
The teachers were at first skeptical of what we would be providing and wanted incentives, payment, etc. to attend something that would take so much of their time — put yourself in their shoes; would you go somewhere for 10 days away from family and friends and crops and jobs in order to get a certification in something you haven’t heard of? Once the training was over they were all very anxious to express their thanks to all of us and we even had the media (picture to right) there to capture everything that happened.
One of the best parts of the training was that the Ministry of Education told us that they didn’t realize how great the need for education support and training in Hamesh Koreb was. Additionally, the told us that this was the FIRST time they had performed these types of trainings in the community instead of having the community travel to them! The seemed to like the idea and may be open to doing this type of thing with other teachers and organizations in the Future.
So, thats my story on education in Hamesh Koreb. It isn’t easy, and there are many obstacles to overcome, but in the last 3 months we have given them what they have never had in the school in the form of a water system, PTA trainings, and Teacher’s trainings…simple things that have a lot of promise.