Working in Uganda, more than anywhere else I have worked or traveled, really helped me understand the importance of education. While working in Mexico and Guatemala, we saw the impact that interactive and creative teaching techniques can have on students learning capacity, but I didn't fully grasp how important education was.
Working in Uganda gave me the opportunity to interact with teachers (more than I had done previously) and train them on how to be better educators. This was an amazing opportunity for me, and I learned so much about how to teach and train, as well as how to overcome some of the obstacles teachers face.
I think I have previously written about the teacher trainings, but I wanted to go into a little bit more detail. Caitlin and I designed a training that would help teachers learn how to include behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism teaching methods into their classroom. After Caitlin left, Carley helped with the project.
We made the trainings very interactive and tried to break the "chalk and talk" mentality of the Ugandan education system. We would start with either the human knot activity, or later we used an egg drop activity to get the participants thinking with the hopes that they will begin to analyze more of their teaching methodologies. This also helped people come out of their comfort zones and open up during the training. One of the schools we worked with was three stories tall, so we dropped the eggs off the third story. It was hilarious to watch the teachers running around and picking up their eggs, lamenting if they broke.
We would then move from the activity to a lecture portion, and involve activities along the way. Some of my favorite were having them role play animals, teach me how to make chapati, and having them guess what the capital of Honduras was. After the egg drop activity, everyone responded really well to all the other teachings and activities.
We also had them create lesson plans that helped them implement the teachings from our workshop to a future lesson. It was incredible to see the transformation during a two hour training. These teachers (some better than others) really grasped the concepts we were teaching, and their lesson plans were impressive.
In the end, we trained over 100 teachers on these interactive teaching methods. Then we would print out certificates and give them to the participants to show that they had completed the course. Some of the teachers loved the certificates so much that they were jumping up and down. All of the schools we went to asked us to come back and teach them some more - they all wanted more training. It was very rewarding to know that what we had done was impacting them and that they had the desire to learn more. Some of the schools even referred us to other schools where we could do the training.
Aside from the teacher trainings, we had some fun in other education projects while we were in Uganda. One of the volunteers, Dillon, taught dozens of first aid classes to hotel staff, elementary and secondary school students, and school staff and faculty. They were so successful, and in the end he did a mock disaster with one school so they could practice what they learned.
Carley and I also had the chance to visit a school at St. Kizito Baby's Home (orphanage) and read to them. These kids were so eager to learn, and it was fun to teach them songs and read with them a little. Kids are so responsive, and they want to learn. This is something that we saw with the kids in secondary school, that many of them had lost that love of learning. I would love to study more of how to prevent that.
At the Baby's Home, the kids were begging us to come back again and read to them. I wish we would have had time to help them a little more. But Uganda has a different vacation schedule than we do in the States, so by the time we had an opportunity to return, they were on vacation.
Education is so important, and it is sad that not everyone in the world is granted the same opportunities to learn. I cannot wait for the day when education will be a priority among all governments and is seen as an investment rather than an expense. Our teachers need to be praised for raising a generation of leaders and thinkers. There is so much success that comes through education and especially from teaching people how to think for themselves. The next time I return to Uganda I hope I see a transformation in the education system that benefits the students, focusing on solving problems rather than excelling in government testing.