My time volunteering
I volunteered with my wife, Ana Garay Vallejo. We were both education methodology volunteers working in a local education authority. We worked with a group of schools to build their capacity in communicative teaching methodology. We also spend a lot of time on educational management issues. My wife focussed more on early primary and I did more later primary.
The impact of my placement
Its difficult to say. Methodology training is very difficult when teachers have bigger problems such as changing language of teaching from French to English or even having two jobs because you’re not getting paid! I think our experiences (there were about 20 methodology advisers in my cohort across Rwanda) led to a change in focus to more pre-service work rather than in-service so sometimes your placement can be about understanding what doesn’t work rather than having great success. Our bigger success probably came in educational management, particularly when we identified schools that were doing things well and encouraged them to share with other schools. In the last month of our placement we held peer training days between schools. The quality was a bit hit and miss but critically they were training each other and we just sat back and watched. That was important for sustainability.
My unforgettable moments
Many classic moments. One when a teacher tried using a sock puppet for the first time while reading a book to the children. She didn’t tell the children about the puppet and so they largely didn’t notice, a couple of them did occasionally look up, no doubt wondering why she had a sock on her hand. Another time I had suggested bringing the teaching of digestive system to life by getting a child to swallow a piece of bread and then describe its trajectory. The teacher brought a child up to the front and all was going fine until the end when the teacher started demanding the child “point to where it comes out child”, “your bumhole, point to your bumhole” “Class, where is the bumhole?” I of course could not control my laughter and had to leave the room.
The impact my placement has had on me
My placement did inspire me to work in development and after another shorter term VSO placement supporting the development of our South Sudan programme I then got a job with the British Council in Algeria. Of course I ended up at VSO in Kingston. My wife now works for Save the Children so its fair to say that the volunteering experience influenced us to become development workers