Friday, April 24, 2009

Teaching in Developing Countries

When I did a teaching practicum in Bangladesh, I was the only white & western woman in my group. I was also the only teacher. The rest of the volunteers were from Japan, Korea & Bangladesh. They were mostly students, studying to be doctors & lawyers. We helped to build latrines in the rice fields, where people would otherwise relieve themselves out in the open and on the rice. We also assisted doctors in pre and post-operation for eye cataract surgery. Thousands of locals lined up to see if they had cataracts, and to receive the multivitamin the doctors gave out. It was the most eye opening experience I've ever had.

We had a ceremony to celebrate the volunteer project and the mayor attended. He invited us to have tea with him. When we first arrived, we noticed that there were only 2 chairs. So, we all sat on the dirt floor and the mayor sat in one of the chairs, smiling and asking us questions about what we did and where we were from.

When I said that I was training to be a teacher, the mayor insisted that I sit in the chair beside him. I fumbled for my words, saying "No thank you. I am fine down here," but he insisted. It made me very uncomfortable. Why was I sitting above everyone else? Was it because I'm white and from Canada? I think he could tell I was uneasy.

"No, No! It's because you are a teacher! We treat our teachers with respect here in Bangladesh," the mayor insisted.

Well how about that? Between the choice of doctors, lawyers and teachers, the teacher gets the chair.

Here's a great photography post in the Guardian today about students caught up in an African war zone attending make shift bush schools. Another great Guardian resource is this interactive map with country profiles.

I'm also looking into some sort of scholarship or bursary fund to help a Classroom Canada teacher do a volunteer project in teaching in a developing country. What do you think? This won't happen for another couple of years, but I'd really like to support our teachers who want to volunteer in teaching abroad (Africa? Caribbean? Asia?). I know many of our teachers would love to do something like I did in Bangladesh but are inhibited by the costs they will incur. I was given a scholarship from Queen's university, and I know I wouldn't have had the money to fly all the way to Bangladesh otherwise.

So, if I can help with some sort of fund then I'd be more than happy to. I just can't figure out how to do it, and wish I had the mental brain space to figure it out.

That's where you come in. What do you think? Do you know of some organization or project with teaching that you'd like to participate in? Please share your ideas in the comments section.


  1. This is a great post, Victoria! I love the story about you in Bangladesh.

    I always have wanted to do some sort of volunteer work in a developing country, but like you mentioned, I have never been able to come up with the costs to fund the trip there, etc. Great idea!

  2. Thanks Jodi. Let's keep thinking on it, and I'm sure something amazing will come to mind. Let me know if you hear of anything that looks good!
    :-) Victoria
    PS) Congrats on finishing your B.Ed. You're that much closer to arriving in London!


Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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