Slum teaching is the project that appealed to us most as UK qualified teachers but we knew that even with our skills and experience it wasn’t going to be easy. Teaching outside our preferred age range and subject, as well as in an environment lacking in all of the resources we would regard as basic was going to be a challenge. However, the rewards to both ourselves in terms of professional development and of course to the children would be immense.
Do you need to be a qualified teacher?
No. Anyone with a willingness to support children in their learning can be a part of the English teaching project. The teachers that run it in lieu of any volunteers are not trained teachers themselves either. You can certainly be of help with the youngest children who are still trying to acquire the basics of recognising and pronouncing the alphabet as well as learning to count to ten.
However, our personal opinion is that if you are going to lead classes or teach specific grammar points or mathematics then you should either get some training in advance or stick rigidly to a set syllabus as it is possible to do more harm than good. Re-teaching something that has been taught incorrectly can be very difficult as children hold on to these misconceptions tightly and with the language barrier it’s virtually impossible to undo.
What is the school like?
Essentially it’s a slum so it’s very dusty. There are walls but they are bare brick and the roof is just a sheet of plastic/metal. Two of the classrooms are rooms but the rest of the students learn in an open area. There is a small shelf that contains a few resources for teaching including some story books, a couple of maths textbooks, a box of wax crayons and a pack of plain white paper. Finding alphabet and number flashcards was a highlight of our first week. A set of lollipop sticks has also helped greatly with teaching division.
There are two additional rooms used by the slum medical clinic and a room used by the womens’ empowerment group. Outside from the centre is the slum and waterway. The area is exactly what you would predict – dirty, dusty, full of rubbish with animals and children wandering around often looking very malnourished.
What is the role of the volunteer?
It really does depend on your skills, qualifications and previous experience. As qualified teachers we are able to lead classes, teach specific grammar and maths lessons. We are also supporting with the developing the syllabus for future volunteers. However, volunteers with little or no experience can act as teaching assistants or work with small groups/on a one-to-one basis to help students catch up on work missed or that they are struggling with. There are plenty of resources back at the volunteer house to help you plan lessons, activities or games to get students engaged in learning. Kranti (Vishy’s wife) is also there to support you in this project and has a wealth of experience and knowledge about this area.
If you’re coming for a long period of time, are interested in using English teaching as a method for extending travel or are considering a career in teaching then we would recommend completely a short introductory course to TEFL.
For up-to-date information about the volunteer opportunities at the slum school please visit www.planmygapyear.co.uk. If you have specific questions about our experience then please contact us via our contact page.