WHILE most teachers were enjoying their Christmas break, St Norbert College teacher Sarah Gardner was enjoying a holiday of a different kind – helping local communities in Uganda strengthen their education system.
The 29-year-old science teacher spent four weeks in the African nation as part of an initiative that provides training for teachers in economically disadvantaged countries.
A burning desire to help others and make a difference inspired her to volunteer for the Limited Resource Teacher Training program (LRTT).
“I was really trying to find myself in a way,” she said.
“A colleague of mine encouraged me to do it, and I literally went home and the LRTT advertising popped up on Facebook and it was just perfect.
“I always want to give service, but I also want a bit of adventure and to see the world, so there’s no better way of combining all of those things together.”
Ms Gardner said about 120 Ugandan teachers, most of whom are virtually untrained, took part in the program, where they were taught a range of universally-used practical educational skills to use in their classrooms.
“These teachers have nothing,” she said.
“A lot of the government schools don’t even have tables and chairs. For a school to have tables and chairs they need to fundraise or the church needs to fundraise so the kids can have a desk.
“It really made me more savvy of things I could do, on the spur of the moment, without a computer.
“To see that these teachers have nothing and they make it work; I took a lot from that.”
Ms Gardner, who previously spent time in India and Haiti serving local communities, said this time she wanted to be a part of creating long-term change.
“Even though I couldn’t see the direct impact of my work, I was doing whatever I could to help a teaching profession in Uganda that is not very healthy because of government funding, and because of corruption in the country,” she said.
“Hopefully the knowledge and the information that I gave to these teachers will impact the children they teach, which could make their lives better.
“Even though I did all I could, it was like a tiny drop of water on what is a burning fire of injustice in the educational system in Uganda. I can only hope and pray that it has made a difference.”