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Excerpts of a journey

A country in Central Asia

UNICEF data: Only one-third of the population is literate. Fewer than half of the men can read. Fewer than one in five women can read.

First day of six-week teacher training course

Teacher: I have to admit that I did not want to come on this training during our school holidays. None of the teachers did. But now, we are so excited to come back.

Class discussion on teaching Emotional Intelligence

Teacher 1: But this is not our culture – to talk about emotions. It is our custom to keep these things inside. Why should we teach our children something that is against our custom?

Teacher 2: But isn’t that the problem with our society? How many women do you know who have kept all their pain inside and never shared it with anyone or had a chance to relieve themselves of the pain? They are wasting away. This way, we can help them to find some comfort.

Teacher 3: Yes, and if we can teach the children how to do this from when they are young, imagine how much better our society will become – if people can express their emotions and themselves in a healthy way rather than resorting to violence.

Teacher 4: Yes, there is so much trauma in our country. We need to be able to teach our children and ourselves how to better cope with it.

Excerpt from classroom observation report

During the six-week teacher training program, the teachers were notably stunned at the prospect that mathematics could be taught in such a way that students understand mathematical concepts and reasoning rather than just learning by rote and repetition. It was encouraging today to see the teachers using coloured sticks, blocks and even kidney beans in their classrooms to help students understand more deeply and to think for themselves. It was encouraging, too, to see the children engaged in the classroom and working co-operatively – another practice that is new in a system that promotes competition above all else.

International news

A peaceful demonstration was attacked today. The high number of injuries and deaths overwhelmed the emergency system.

Diary entry

It was International Teachers’ Day last week. You’d think that that would have been a clue but I remained oblivious until I walked into the room. The teachers were all sitting around the table which was laden with all kinds of delightful food. They started to clap. I was still a little oblivious … “Teacher this is for you. We have all cooked this morning before work and have prepared a lunch for you to thank you for being our teacher”.

Text from security advisor

We have received credible intelligence that a criminal network is operating in the area. They are seeking to kidnap foreign workers. Foreign nationals are urged to practise extreme caution.

Excerpt from transcript of teacher mentoring session

Me: It has been so wonderful to see your progress over these past months. At the beginning you didn’t seem so interested in bringing about change, but now you are such an inspirational practitioner of active-participatory teaching. What brought about the change?

Teacher: You encouraged me. No-one has ever encouraged me before.

Interview with School Principal

I didn’t really believe in this program before but now I see children actually reading. I hadn’t even realised that before they were just repeating what they had learnt by rote but now they are actually learning to read and even the parents have commented to us that they are really happy.

Comment from student feedback form

We have noticed that the teachers are much more kind to us and that we do lots of different activities, including group work.

Text from online parent forum

Dear teachers, I wanted to thank you for all your hard work. We can all see how hard you work and how much you care for our children. We have never seen any other school like this. Our children are happy and are learning. We thought we had to leave the country so that we could provide good education for our children. We are so happy that this is in our country.

Matthew 28:20

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Jodi (not her real name) is a teacher-trainer. She is serving long-term in Central Asia.

Education to combat extremism

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