New teaching chapter

A five-week placement in Uganda is likely to have a lifelong impact on Scottish teachers, as Raymond Ross reports

Raymond Ross

Passion" may or may not be a word you commonly associate with education. But it crops up repeatedly at a small Sunday morning gathering of teachers, along with words such as "challenge", "excitement", "inspiration", "commitment" and "making a difference".

Nine primary teachers (including two heads) from Aberdeenshire are coming to the end of their first of two weekend training sessions as part of a Global Teachers Programme run by Link Community Development Scotland.

After a second training weekend in May, the nine teachers will undertake a five-week placement in Masindi district, Uganda, during their summer break.

"I want to immerse myself in a community which will challenge and excite me, teach me things about myself and help me to grow the realisation in my own pupils back in Scotland that they are, in fact, similar to the children of Africa," says P23 teacher Fiona McDonald.

This stressing of similarities is also a theme of the morning's discussion, though differences remain apparent.

"My school is in New Machar, an affluent `oil village' in Aberdeenshire, and I want to return as a source of information, inspiration and support for colleagues in order to enhance global education in the whole school community," she says.

There are two main strands to the programme, according to its director Samantha Ross. "Firstly, we want to build capacity in our partner schools in Africa to help enhance their quality of education and, secondly, we want the returning teachers to embed their experience in their own schools, clusters and education authorities in order to show global similarities and to counter any North-South, giver-receiver or them-and-us divisions," she says.

"This is not a fundraising programme. It is entirely about building capacity and bringing about sustainable change in people, in educational structures and in educational practice."

As a young teacher who graduated five years ago, Fiona McDonald believes that she has the confidence now to undertake "the Global Teacher journey" and to be able to make a difference. "I'm excited at the idea of being able to affect both our partner school and my own school and to enhance the understanding between both.

"I've no doubt I'm at the beginning of something which will also change me and my career," she says. "The unknown frightens me and I'll be in our partner school on my own, but other colleagues will be in schools nearby and I'll be able to work and discuss things with them."

On her return, Miss McDonald will also share her experiences with other global teachers through a Glow group and CPD meetings. "I think it will make me focus on the bigger picture and realise that the day-to-day stresses of teaching are not the be all and end all of my professional existence," she says.

This is the fifth year of the programme which is supported by the Wood Family Trust, an Aberdeen-based charity that seeks to invest some pound;50 million in economic, community and enterprise activities in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK. Its aim is to develop and support individuals to become independent, contributing and caring members of society.

Aberdeenshire education authority is giving support by paying for vaccinations and arranging insurance, as well as providing recruitment and training facilities.

In 2013, teachers from two additional authorities will be invited to apply to the Global Teachers Programme to volunteer in either Uganda or Ghana, while LCD Scotland hopes to extend the programme by a further four years to involve teachers from eight authorities across Scotland.


`This allowed me to spread my passion for global education'

Dhamayanthi Sangarabalan

PT, Blackhall Primary, Edinburgh

"I was asked to address the Aberdeenshire teachers this morning because of my experience in volunteering in Malawi in 2008.

At the time I was a class teacher, very much focused on my own class. But the Malawi experience allowed me to develop a whole-school project for the first time. I was already passionate about global education, but this allowed me to spread that passion to other teachers.

I would say that volunteering is one of the best forms of CPD that you can undertake.

Teachers are already involved in global education in different ways and it's not a bolt-on to Curriculum for Excellence, but is fundamental to the four capacities.

If you think about it, how can we possibly learn about Scotland without realising Scotland's place in the world?

Going on the global teacher journey is an incredible experience and also a way of showing that you are a lifelong learner. It's about celebration and recognition, about being recognised as a developing teacher while celebrating the success in your pupils.

It really is too good an opportunity to miss."

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Raymond Ross

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