For the past two years that we’ve been living in Bujumbura I’ve had the pleasure of teaching English as a foreign language at Hope Africa University. Since it’s enrollment was over 5,000 students there was always a need for teachers, especially native English speakers. Unfortunately, the student body population has dropped dramatically.
In February about 1200 students graduated from HAU; a fantastic accomplishment in the face of the political crisis that ensued last April. But now there are only about 1800 students, or less, most are in their final semesters seeking to finish their degree programs. Three hundred of these are medical school students who are deeply invested with time and money. This seems to be the result of both the location of the school (in one of the “hot” neighborhoods of last year’s protests) and the rapidly falling economy, due to the political crisis. With fewer students, particularly new students, many professors have been laid off. And while I cost the University nothing, I have not been teaching at HAU this semester since there are so few new students who need the EFL courses.
Instead, there have been some new avenues I’ve been able to participate in. One of these has been the pleasure of working with some teachers at a private Burundian school called Discovery School. It started in 2008, under the Community of Emmanuel Churches Of Burundi by missionaries, Joy and Jesse Johnson. On the campus of the Emmanuel Church mission there is also a clinic, a school for the deaf and other church ministries. The school has grown over the years. It now has about 800 Burundian students from age two (preschool) up to grade six with about 45 Burundian teachers. They use American curriculums, teach mostly in English and try to keep class size 20-30. It is truly impressive!
Hearing I was a teacher and not presently teaching at HAU, Joy asked me if I’d like to give a seminar to the teachers at Discovery School, specifically in how to teach writing to students using a Writer’s Workshop approach. I was happy to have the opportunity to be engaged in teaching again but especially as I toured the school for the first time and saw how the teachers were engaging their students as learners.
So over the last two months I’ve lead a seminar for the teachers of 4th-6th grade levels, observed them teaching using the new strategies, debriefed with them and taught a class for each so they could observe another teacher using this approach.
I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the teachers as they are eager to learn, engaged, thoughtful and seek to integrate new teaching strategies into their repertoires, which are completely foreign to how they were taught in school. It is exciting to be a part of introducing something new that they can adapt and integrate into their own culture and teaching styles in ways that will enhance the students learning. It’s also been wonderful to be with children who are eager to learn and full of enthusiasm. They are Burundi’s future hope for sustainable growth, development and advancement. I am thankful for this new avenue and what it might hold in the time ahead.
“New Avenues–Part 2” upcoming!