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Showing posts from March, 2014

Week 5 #TeacherTuesday:The single story about Africa’s education

The danger in writing about the African continent is that one can end up falling into the trap of perpetuating what Chimamanda Adichie refers to as the “single story”; that is, writing about one idea where Africa is a country; a deep, dark and poor country. A place out there the natives are starving and waiting for the return of the colonial master. The single story about Africa is limited by those who consider themselves as African as well as those who are outsiders seeking to understand the complexity of this place and explain to others. At least this was how I felt when I read a story about a teacher in Kibera, Kenya’s largest slum area.
The first time I found out about Kibera, “the slums of Nairobi” was last year. I was planning a trip to Nairobi and while looking for a touristy list of things to do, I came across an article with “Ten things to do while visiting Nairobi”. On the list, there was a mention of the area Kibera, a large “slum” in Nairobi. The article suggested that it w…

#Teacher Tuesday week 4: The right to education sacrificed in the name of power, war

As a teacher in South Africa, it’s very tempting to naval-gaze because of the woes facing education in this country. My temptation is always curbed when I read stories about other teachers who are teaching in the midst of political turmoil in conflict-ridden countries. Like a refugee camp for Syrians in Jordan for example. When a country is faced with geopolitical conflict, the stories of the people who suffer the most often don’t make breaking news; their stories become the footnote in the larger discourse of war and militarisation. When we read about Syria we know about the sanctions, the influence of Arab spring and the “rebel” groups and military’s role in violent operations and Bashar al-Assad’s tyranny.
I recently read about a teacher, Mohammed, who works at a refugee camp in Jordan called Zataari. There are schools in this camp supported by various international bodies.  He works for two well-known schools which support almost 20 000 children whose families fled from the unres…

#TeacherTuesday week 3: A case for gender parity in education

Until Malala Yousafzai’s story became well-known, I doubt many people considered what it means to be young and female and seeking an education in a conflict-ridden society that has a bias against the education of girls. Recently I read about a teacher from Afghanistan, Nahida, and I realised that in another part of the world a girl’s education is not a given. Nahida is a school principal for a girls school in Kabul. She has persevered through many difficulties in making sure the education of girls in Kabul matters. Her experiences also reveal that when a country is conflict-ridden for three decades, the people who suffer the most are girls and the women who teach them.
If we focus on Afghanistan alone, Nahida’s story brings to light the interconnectedness of politics, security and education. She points out that “In the last period of time when Mujahidin came to power, different portions of Mujahidin started fighting in Kabul and other provinces. Schools closed because of security, esp…

#TeacherTuesday Week 2: The language question (inclusion and exclusion)

One of my colleagues recently took down the sign “English-speaking zone” from her classroom wall. She had put it up at the beginning of the year as a way of dealing with the “language problem” in our school. She is a monolingual English-speaker who teaches students who speak isiXhosa (and Afrikaans occasionally) and she did not want them to speak any other language but English in her classroom. The situation my colleague finds herself is a microcosm of the “language problem” in education in multilingual communities. English dominates the classrooms of children who do not necessarily speak English as their primary language.

The “language problem” is experienced across the world. Natalee is a teacher from Bay Islands in Honduras where the Ministry of Education has declared this year as the “Year of Inclusion” where the ministry will support and prepare every teacher to create an inclusive classroom; embracing learning styles and cultural difference that each of the children in their clas…

#Teacher Tuesday week 1: Why teach in Africa?

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For the next 10 weeks my blog posts will be part of a blog project #Teacher Tuesday which seeks to discuss the issues emerging in the Unesco Education for All Monitoring Report. Stories about 10 teachers will be profiled over the next 10 weeks.

Meet Esnart. She is a teacher in Malawi. There’s a bitter-sweet tinge to her reflection about her teaching experience thus far. She was inspired to be a teacher because she “had a teacher that was so good. She loved everyone in class. She wanted to see us succeed in our lessons”. But she also refers to the teaching profession as “the last resort (where) those who have good grades go to university and teachers are another layer who have nowhere else to go. Secondary students go to university. The primary school finishers become teachers.” Part of her teaching experience means that she has taught as many as 230 primary school children (seven and eight year olds) under a tree at a village school. While reading Esnart’s story I was dismayed that I …