Paul Jennings is volunteering as a teacher trainer in one of the most deprived regions of Tanzania. Worlds away from his UK classroom.
He’s supporting teachers across 12 secondary schools, improving teaching quality and helping to keep students engaged and attending school.
Addressing drop-out rates
The coastal town of Lindi is one of the lowest achieving areas of Tanzania in terms of education. There are high drop-out rates, particularly among girls, as pupils fail to continue their studies as they progress from primary to secondary school.
Paul aimed to directly address this problem by helping teachers make their lessons more dynamic and interesting, showing them different ways to engage students in their classrooms.
As well as training teachers on different teaching methodologies, Paul observed their lessons and gave direct feedback. But where he found most success was planning a lesson with a teacher and teaching it together.
“Change is very slow in projects like this,” he said. “It’s a bit like watching your fingernail grow – they tell you it’s growing but you’re not convinced. Then I did a few rounds of observations. I looked at the new teaching methods and the scores, and there was a real positive difference over time.”
Paul also trained five particularly gifted teachers to be able to deliver their own training to other teachers, so the process of learning can continue after he returns to the UK.
“They all responded really well, and actually the local staff learnt from them much quicker than from us volunteers. That’s how I prefer it.”
One teacher mentor, Rebecca, saw a particularly fast improvement in her work, even though she’d only been teaching for one year.
“She has so much enthusiasm and a rapport with students, which you don’t see very often, plus a genuine warmth, laughter and joy for her work. She’s a real star.”
Education is the root of everything
Paul first trained as a teacher as a way to get into charity work, but ended up falling in love with education, finding it exciting and stimulating.
“I believe that education has to be the root of everything. If you don’t give children a strong start, they can’t take advantage of future opportunities. They might make lifestyle choices that will make it difficult for their families to escape poverty."
If you don’t give children a strong start, they can’t take advantage of opportunities
A new pace of life
After working in Tanzania, Paul has a new outlook on life, finding himself far more patient.
“It’s a cliché, but volunteering really has broadened my horizons. The other day a flood cut me off for five hours and I just enjoyed it rather than get frustrated."
He's also found his time in Tanzania more relaxing than the relentless pace of life in the UK.
"I’ve got more time for me here. I’m convinced that my hair is growing back!”
We’re in urgent need of more educational professionals like Paul to volunteer with VSO. Find out more about our volunteer jobs in teaching and education.
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