November 5, 2020

Education with Empathy

Kiswahili teacher, Ms Anna, inspires her students with her childhood stories

Standard 5 students, 25 in total, file into the classroom. The walls are covered with posters of facts and grammatical tips.

Despite the heat outside, most of the students are wearing sweaters. This is common among St Jude’s students, who take a great deal of pride in their uniform.

Last in the classroom, behind the students, is Ms Anna. She is about to begin a Kiswahili lesson.

Ms Anna places her bag on the desk and the students stand and sing her a song in Kiswahili, which runs through different categories of nouns. Once they’ve finished, Ms Anna nods in approval.

Kiswahili is Tanzania’s official language. Because St Jude’s is a English Medium school, all subjects are taught in English except Kiswahili. This means English is the medium of communication and instruction to all students and staff at St Jude’s.

To begin the class, Ms Anna turns to the blackboard, standing straight with one hand clasped behind her back, writing in flawless cursive.

“Before we start,” says Ms Anna, “is there any preparation you’d like to go over?”

Student Engagement: Ms Anna encourages student participation by posing a question

Six hands shoot up before Ms Anna has even finished asking her question. The students begin making suggestions for the day’s class, speaking with ease and confidence. The feeling in the room is that of comfort and trust.

Ms Anna places importance on building trust with her students. She enjoys working with younger students, and teaching them more than Kiswahili… she also teaches them to strive to be better. Often, she will share parables with her class to teach them life lessons about happiness, setting goals and achieving their dreams.

 “I teach my students to be better than me,” she says. “Don’t just try and be like me, be better than me.”

Ms Anna takes joy and pride in teaching her students, and to encourage and inspire them, Ms Anna  shares her childhood stories with her students.

“My childhood was difficult but happy,” says Ms Anna. “I have a big family with six siblings.”

“My parents were poor and I would cry, I would see my friends with cars and shoes…” Ms Anna adds.

“…But look at me now!” She triumphantly exclaims.

Unusually, for a Tanzanian family of such limited means, all six of Ms Anna’s siblings graduated high school; they would always support each other and work hard.

Fun Teaching: Ms Anna keeps the class interesting so students stay enthused

For her education, Ms Anna went to a government school. Occasionally, her friends who had the money to attend English Medium private schools would poke fun at her because of her inability to pronounce certain words in English. For years, Ms Anna took to sitting under a tree and reading English books, as well as watching movies.

“I would read, even if I couldn’t understand,” says Ms Anna. “I would read out loud to practice my pronunciation.”

By the time she was in Form 6, her final year of secondary school, she was able to speak English confidently to those same private school friends, having worked hard to make up for the shortcomings in her education.

The Kiswahili lesson continues and students approach the front of the room, writing different nouns on the blackboard. Some even clasp their hands behind their back as they write, emulating their teacher.

If a student writes a word correctly, Ms Anna will nod her head and quietly say, “ehe.” If they get it wrong, she will comically contort her face in a grimace, before inviting the class to help.

A steady line of students continues to approach the blackboard, while Ms Anna pads around the room, talking softly, never raising her voice, and smiling, thrilled to have the chance to shape her students’ outlook on education and the future.

Teaching with Enthusiasm: Ms Anna teaches her class with a smile

Ms Anna counts hard work and encouragement as the two most valuable lessons she learnt from her childhood and the emphasis on securing an education. She believes that the students can reach their goals and break the cycle of poverty regardless of their background.

You can provide students at The School of St Jude with passionate teachers like Ms Anna, donate today!


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