With a school of more than 200 students at Loanialu, a cluster of isolated villages in this remote area there is always something to do. Visits by Australian volunteers in 2010 and 2011 provided teacher assistance, student tutoring, help with a host of health issues by a volunteer nurse, new capital works (though on a more modest scale than before) and maintenance. And there’s more planned for 2012.
Part 1 – They came to teach
Work with ‘small groups’ of students is meant to be a regular feature of visits by Christadelphian teachers from Australia. The aim is to do remedial work with the many children who never started school until they were 13 or more, or those who were generally having difficulties. While some individual and small group work has, in fact, been done, it hasn’t panned out quite as we had expected.
For example, not long after our first set of teachers from Australia arrived on one visit in 2010, there was a funeral in one of the villages, and consequently, a period of mourning. The Education Department decided that since Australian teachers were visiting, the school would be closed for only one week instead of a longer period. Welcome to island culture. So for the first week of that visit, there were no teachers and no students. Instead we went to the ‘sorry ‘ funeral and shared in the villagers’ sadness. We also did some maintenance work at the school and on another of our “days off”, we took a few of the year five/six children down to the beach several kilometers away
The teachers at Kapalpal are untrained and are unqualified, though all have previous teaching experience – some with several years’. When school finally re-commenced, the local teachers made it obvious that they found it difficult to teach in front of those who were qualified. They asked if the teachers would be willing to model Australian teaching practices so that they could learn from them. Our first group of Aussie teachers, Stephen and Jan and Fiona and Katherine were extremely helpful even if they didn’t feel quite right about becoming instant authorities and demonstrating the ‘better’ way of teaching.
Jan at work
Stephen and Jan’s many years of teaching experience combined with Jan’s background in curriculum development and remedial work and Stephen’s experience in Special Education were invaluable. Steven and Jan also led some workshops for our local teachers and were really appreciated.
Steve teaching maths
Fiona was a tremendous asset and we have seen the work that she did with Anna’s Prep class after she returned to Australia.
Fiona with a gift of feathers from students
As Fiona later commented: “I had a fantastic time. Some things are etched into my memory forever like the sounds of 200 voices singing ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases’ each morning as the school day began. What an amazing place! And what an amazing opportunity.”
Katherine, who is an engineer but came to help out in the classroom, mostly worked with the year 5 and 6 students in maths. She had also done some fundraising in Brisbane and brought some sets of maths equipment with her ( MAB blocks) which have been a really useful to the teachers.
About her experience, Katherine later told us: “On Tanna, I faced the most challenging cultural experience I’ve had so far: the people are painfully shy and terribly aware of how poor their English can be. In class I’d ask them questions, and the best I would get in return was giggles and smiles. Without a teaching background I found this impossible.”
On a more recent visit volunteers extended the “small groups” work in reading and maths development using educational games made especially for the Kapalpal school. For several days, Lauren and Sophie worked with children in all grades, focusing on the Year 1 and 2 children while Karen taught Year 1 on several occasions. All the special attention will pay off in the classroom.
Lauren and Sophie (left) and Karen (photo on right) in the classrom