English teacher travels to Uganda to host teaching workshop

Britton Whitlock, Features Writer

English teacher Ms. Erin Ancelet and her mother, Southport Middle School master teacher Mrs. Sharon Ancelet, were inspired to help Ugandan schools by the teachers’ determination to become better at teaching. They spent a month in Uganda this past summer helping 60 dedicated teachers reach their maximum potential through a teaching workshop.

In 1997, the Ugandan government introduced nationwide primary education, meaning that all children are able to attend primary school at no cost. In 2007, secondary school also became free. Though the education is free, the quality is mediocre and locations to learn are sparse due to lack of funds, forcing children’s families to either scrape up enough money to go to cutthroat private schools or not to go to school at all, according to salveinternational.org.

There is very limited technology in Uganda, according to Ancelet, and because of this, teaching and learning are done very differently. The Ancelets and two other Indianapolis teachers tried to help the Ugandan teachers do the best teaching with what they have.

Ancelet’s mother taught social studies at Southport Middle School before she was a master teacher and taught about Africa for many years. She has a friend that has lived in Uganda for 20 years. The friend is the one who started the teaching workshop.

The workshop was a challenging feat, but it was accomplished with the help of the motivation of the Ugandan teachers, according to Ancelet.

“Helping them was difficult because a lot of what we as teachers utilize here, they can’t use there,” Ancelet said. “A lot of what we do to make our teaching better, we do through technology, but they don’t have much of that, so we just taught them how to make their classes run better to get the students more involved and how to make learning more exciting to their kids.”

With a lack of technology also comes a lack of transportation. Some of the teachers in Uganda didn’t have what Americans consider “proper transportation,” but that didn’t stop them, according to Ancelet.

“There were so many teachers there from Uganda that rode their bikes or walked for multiple hours just to come attend our workshop,” Ancelet said. “It was inspiring to see how badly they wanted to be there and to improve upon their teaching.”

Ancelet also witnessed their determination through the Ugandan teachers’ hopes for the workshop to become an annual event. She says that it was hard having to explain to the teachers that they wouldn’t be back for at least a few years.

The funding runs short in Africa for teaching workshops due to the sheer lack of money in the area, according to Ancelet.

“They wanted to be there,” Ancelet said. “They wanted to be better at their jobs. It was so inspiring that they were so excited just because we were there to help them teach in their classrooms. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the funding to have it again next year. It is really expensive for us to come to Africa and for them to host the workshop.”

Ancelet also found the overwhelming influence of poverty in Uganda. She found that poverty and disease and child soldiers were eminent, but the area that they were in was stable, so there were no threats to their personal safety.

“I feel like traveling and seeing the poverty of the world is something that is eye-opening,” Ancelet said. “Seeing that, I think, would give people a better perspective on how things are in areas that aren’t as developed as we are.”

She also found it inspiring to see that even though the Ugandans knew that none of the mentors were substantially wealthy, they knew how much better the quality of life is in America. She found them humble, friendly and extremely gracious of the work the mentors did with them, regardless of what they had to do to get there.