Teachers helping in Sierra Leone

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Eight teachers from Hastings schools gave up their February break to teach in the classrooms of their partner schools in Sierra Leone.

Teachers from All Saints, Christ Church, St. Mary Star of the Sea, West St Leonards and Dudley had all been awarded travel grants from the British Council within its Connecting Classrooms programme.

During the autumn, teachers of schools in both countries attended courses to develop Critical Thinking and Problem Solving skills.

These have been developed to address a variety of topics with Zero Hunger as the focus for a joint project.

Children added ideas to explore, from growing vegetables to raising pigs in the school yard. Issues of food sources and distribution in Sierra Leone and the UK were discussed. These joint projects will now continue to bring the schools together.

Old friendships were renewed and new friendships established during the week.

All who took part are planning ways to raise funds to bring their partners back to the UK in May, to continue to learn from each other. Everyone involved sees these partnerships as really important, bringing first-hand experience of living and learning in very different cultures.

Sierra Leonean teachers were enthusiastic.

One wrote, “We love and appreciate the time we spent together in and out of the classroom. I am inspired by your love for us. Even when you were melting in the sun you still wanted to teach the children.”

Another said, “I appreciated the project done by you in Years 5 and 6. These have opened my eyes to a lot of ways of teaching that I never knew before. I want to continue this kind of working.”

Former head teacher and maths advisor Isabel Hodger, who recently joined Roger Mitchell co-ordinating these exchanges, was able to offer her expertise by providing a workshop for local teachers.

She prepared by collecting bottle tops to use as mathematics teaching aids as few resources are available.

More than 20 teachers attended. One said she was immediately able to apply what she had learned. “We did subtraction today, very interactively. Every group had their own problem to solve and at the end of the lesson I was able to give them suitable homework,” she said. “Thanks for your ideas.”

Isabel and Roger are continuing to work with teachers in the nine other local partnership schools, with the intention of teachers working with colleagues in Sierra Leone every year.

Roger said, “I continue to be excited by the benefits that we are seeing from the decade spent building these partnerships since our towns of Hastings were twinned.”

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