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Ruth Miskin Training goes to Sierra Leone

Siobhan Whalley teaching a child in Sierra Leone. Street Child, a UK charity, supports West African teachers set up schools for children in their villages. Teachers have had no training, scarce resources and little pay. Sierra Leone has an adult literacy rate of 36% and only 14% pass English exams.

This year, Street Child piloted a teacher-training programme, with teachers from the UK leading sessions. Siobhan signed up with Street Child hoping that her experience would be valuable.

This is her story:

On 23 July 2014, I left England armed with donations from OUP of Read Write Inc. Phonics resources and beautiful storybooks from Ruth Miskin Training and Boon Books. I arrived in Port Loko, a large city to the North of Freetown. After meeting the Street Child workers and the head of the training college, I observed some sessions and began to plan workshops. Although there are low literacy rates, equal weight is given to each subject in the curriculum – children spend the same time learning to read and as they do on geography – so I hoped to convince the training college leaders that if they spent more time teaching reading, they would find the teaching of other subjects easier. An enthusiastic group of pre-primary teachers attended my phonics workshop. Although the new curriculum in Sierra Leone requires children to learn the sounds that letters represent, the teachers have been given no support on how to do this.

A few fun and eventful days later my group knew exactly how to teach Set 1 Sounds!

I showed teachers how to get children to use partner work to practise what they have been taught, and use praise to encourage children to work hard. Their current strategy to use ‘I say you repeat’ worked well with ‘My-turn-your-turn’! They saw the benefits of getting children to talk together and suggested ways they could use the techniques in their classroom.

With the increasing number of cases of Ebola, Street Child decided we should fly home early. I was so disappointed not to be able to stay longer. Sierra Leone, has a stunning landscape, vibrant atmosphere and friendly, welcoming people - they have so little but give so much.

I’ve had an incredible summer and left buzzing with ideas for improving teacher training in less economically developed countries. It made me so appreciative of my own experience of teacher training in the UK.