A Thought Piece by Sophie Marren 22 March 2019

Limited Resource Teacher Training (LRTT) was founded in 2012, helping teachers from all over the world become educational mentors for teachers in limited resource contexts in more than 40 different countries. LRTT provides knowledge, experience and curriculum ideas to teachers who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity for professional development.

In March 2018 I received confirmation that I had been accepted onto the Tanzanian LRTT programme. I was thrilled, but I now had to find a way of funding my flights and the programme. I got to work straight away, getting in touch with various companies in and around South Yorkshire and organising a raffle to raise funds. A friend also suggested that we run a 10K to raise further funds. I fundraised on a daily basis and managed to raise over £2000 towards my trip. I was overwhelmed with the amount of support I received.

A few months later, with bug spray, passport and phone charger in tow, I waited patiently at Heathrow airport. I met up with my new team, ready to embark on the first leg of the journey to Doha and eventually on to Dar Es Salaam where we arrived thirteen hours later. From there, we headed to our post.

Arriving in Morogoro

Morogoro, Tanzania: red earth and dusty potholed roads, vibrant colours and patterns,  a gorgeous view of the mountains  and  friendly, welcoming people. I wanted to see more, learn more, experience more immediately, but, first things first, we had to learn some Swahili! We were then organised into teaching groups: I was teamed with Ellen and Bec – two of the most amazing and dedicated teachers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. We were allocated to Kihonda Secondary School and Sua Secondary School.

The teachers in Tanzania want their students to succeed, but schools commonly struggle with overpopulated classes, insufficient teachers and limited teaching and learning materials. When faced with this array of challenges, teachers struggle to apply the methodologies that they have learned. Multiple students share few resources, and with no computers or photocopiers, teachers rely on writing on the blackboard — one of the only resources they have. More time is spent writing on the blackboard than teaching or preparing lesson plans. In some schools, teachers face additional challenges such as students coming to school hungry, tired and unable to learn.

Teachers also lack the variety of teaching practices to move away from rote learning techniques of repetition and memorisation. The teachers we met were so passionate and wanted to learn new techniques and ways of engaging students but they did not have the chance to do so, so LRTT and our ideas and methods were their only hope.

Training our teachers

When the time came for our first day of school I felt nervous: in fact, more nervous than I felt on my first day at Parkwood E-ACT Academy. However, I knew that we were ready.

Over the next three weeks we worked with both schools and a range of staff.  We helped to develop them by teaching new skills and ideas as well as coming up with methods that staff members could use within their classrooms. It was incredibly inspiring to see teachers delivering lessons that we had helped them to plan and it was clear that they were so dedicated to their jobs.

During the three weeks we also delivered seminars where Ellen, Bec and I planned a day of activities that would help to develop the teachers. We worked most days, and sometimes they were long days, but we also got time out too.  We did team-building exercises and even got the chance to play a netball game against the Morogoro netball team. Other fantastic experiences included playing rounders with the local people, experiencing a real Tanzanian football match and climbing a huge mountain.

A once-in-a-lifetime experience

At the end of the programme, I was so sad to be leaving Morogoro as we had built such positive relationships with our teachers. I was thrilled that we had achieved our goal: we did what we had intended to do and the feedback we received was incredible. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Through LRTT, I had the chance to meet some of the most amazing and inspirational teachers. I made friends from all over the world and the country – friends I will continue to speak to. Although challenging at times, LRTT was so much fun.  I got to spend my summer making a difference to the lives of others, and that’s the best feeling in the world.