Victoria Harris has taught English as a foreign language for almost 13 years and has set up a school in Tanzania for disadvantaged children.
My heart has always been in Africa. I taught in Hong Kong for three years, but although I loved the city, it was very materialistic – all about money and shopping centres. I just wanted to do something completely different so decided to become a volunteer. My parents had both been English teachers in Kenya and we lived in Africa for a couple of years when we were kids. I had always wanted to go back, so I found a small non-profit organisation called the MondoChallenge Foundationwhich sends volunteers to various countries. The original plan was to return to Kenya but they needed people more in Tanzania and they set me up with a placement there.
Improvisation is key to an ESL (English as a second language) teacher’s survival. I came to Tanzania for three months, living with an African family and teaching at a primary school with 120 kids in the class. There was no electricity and no running water. At the time, I had six years teaching experience so I was ok. But I think if I had done it earlier in my career it would have been a struggle. You have to improvise. You have these huge blackboards, but the chalk is such bad quality that it just disintegrates. You would be writing something on the board and it just dissolves into powder.
It’s therefore important to find ways to get the kids involved. If you’ve got 120 children in the class with some sitting right at the back who can’t even see the board, a lot of it is just about getting them to take part. So, I used songs and games where they had to come up and write something on the board.