Most of my work here is with government schools or local private schools, however occasionally I have worked with a few NGO-supported schools – all schools here need help with teaching children to read and write. I recently returned to visit a primary school run by a large international charity. They also regularly receive international volunteers for various periods of time. I was asked to come and do some training with the teachers last year. I did. During the training I organised a little ‘mock’ lesson with some of the pupils and I was absolutely shocked with how low their reading and writing ability was – it was lower than many of the government schools I work with.

I was asked to return this year to repeat the training since some teachers missed out. I requested one day of lesson observations before training. I observed six lessons and saw one of the six teachers implementing well what I had taught last year (but at quite a low level for the age of the learners). Two teachers were new and hadn’t received the training: in one of those classes I saw classic rote learning teaching practices. In the nursery classes teachers had smatterings of good reading practices, but not much. Class sizes were large: there were 65 three-year-olds in one room. During the lesson I observed children were falling asleep, falling off chairs and fighting whilst the teaching attempted to teach from the front of the classroom. Many of these children are sponsored and their school fees are paid for. On the charity’s website they claim to be providing the best quality education that they can afford for the poorest children in their area.

I was disappointed in a few ways, questioning how well donor funding was being spent as well as being disappointed that the training had not been implemented as well as I had hoped.

I had an interesting journey back to town with a couple of local employees from the organisation (one of them driving a very nice car). They also gave one of their friends a lift back to town with me. She shared some of her concerns with me after we had been dropped off in the local market. I was super impressed with this lady’s thinking. She said to me: ‘I have a lot of friends in this organisation, so I keep my mouth shut. They are benefitting, getting paid well and doing well in life but I see that they don’t care for the children, which is what the organisation is all about. And no staff member sends their child there, which says a lot. The community looks to the school as a place where kids get fed for free, but not a school offering good education. You only have to look at results to see that’. She also mentioned how the short-term western visitors come, visit the children’s home, cuddle the babies, greet the children in class, think everything is amazing, and then return home again. She said: ‘I read a lot, observe and think, but I keep my mouth shut’.

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