I grew up in a Toronto neighbourhood known for being culturally diverse, welcoming to immigrants and generally low income. Not that we lived with resources as limited as I expect to find in Uganda, but relative to the much of Toronto, incomes were low, unemployment high, and public housing extensive.
That experience led me not just to the teaching profession, but to be an advocate for quality education for all students. We had over-crowded schools in our neighbourhood, low student achievement and unmet student needs. Some of those unmet needs were due to insufficient funding to provide smaller classes, more learning support teachers, and other resources. But, another aspect that was missing was understanding…on the part of the teachers. The range of cultures, languages and experiences was difficult for some teachers to understand. In fact, the community lobbied not just for better resources and a more inclusive curriculum. Community leaders actively ran workshops for new principals to give them a better understanding of the community they were to serve and to admonish them if they lowered their standards or expectations of students.
It is this belief that education can be a force for social mobility, economic empowerment and personal self-fulfilment that takes me to Kanungu. As a teacher in an international school in a wealthy country like Singapore, the experience I have teaching is quite different from the experiences of the teachers who taught me and my friends in Toronto. Helping fellow professionals in Uganda will give me a unique opportunity to contribute to opening up opportunities for students who have limited resources themselves and go to schools with much fewer resources than the ones I teach in at present.
I like the structure of LRTT - working with teachers to develop the most effective classroom practices possible. I like the fact that I observe first, seeking an understanding of the context so that my suggestions are grounded in the reality of the schools. I like that we work with partners and in partnership with the Ugandan teachers. I am really looking forward to learning a lot, about Ugandan education but also refining my ideas about what makes effective teaching, without all the equipment and experts I have at my disposal. I hope to make a real contribution to the Kanungu community through education.
By Wayne Burnett
LRTT Uganda 2018 Fellow
Are you a teacher interested in a Fellowship or just wanting to find out more about LRTT? Go to lrtt.org/fellowships