Australian volunteers learn whilst teaching

Teachers Kaye Young & Lidia Mancini

Teachers Kaye Young & Lidia Mancini

“We came to teach and ended up learning.”

That was the response of  two Australian teachers, Lidia Mancini and Kaye Young, who travelled to the highlands of Lesotho to help in the education of  local youngsters.

The directors at Maliba Lodge, Australians Nick King and Chris McEvoy and Lesotho engineer Stephen Phakisi, have established a community trust in the area both to improve and protect the environment in the Tshelayanne National Park and better the living conditions of the local villagers.

Lesotho’s literacy rate of 85 % is one of the highest in Africa but this small country has major problems with high levels of HIV, poverty and malnutrition. It is estimated that 60% of the population live below the poverty line.

The Maliba community trust sponsors a work programme for the five local schools and experienced teachers are being flown in from Australia to help with the tuition and improve the skills of the local teachers.

Mancini and Young, who are from a high profile Melbourne school, Peninsular Grammer, have just completed a month’s stint at Maliba Lodge, running workshops and helping teachers and pupils at the local schools.

“We hope this programme will continue with at least two more groups of teachers travelling to Lesotho from Australia each year,” said McEvoy.

Both teachers described their experiences as “amazing.”

“We thought we were going over on this noble quest to teach all these poor people but we ended up learning so much about ourselves,” said music teacher Mancini.

“The children and teachers were very accepting and warm. The musical experience was phenomenal and really moving. They are in their element when they are singing and I was so excited that I can now sing in Sesotho.”

Kaye Young teaching in Lesotho

Kaye Young teaching children the major body parts

Young was taken with the enthusiasm of the children and their ability to work in the most demanding of conditions.

“Children were so affectionate and love school and learning. Honestly, the whole experience exceeded our expectations and it has changed the way I teach.

Young said that “one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to others.”

“That is one of the great things about our job. In teaching the students in Lesotho, and working with the teachers to provide them with ideas to improve their teaching methods, I found that I was also learning myself and improving my teaching skills.”

Young said that she had to produce creative ideas and activities for teaching students in their second language – English – and under difficult circumstances.

“The class sizes were large and there was a lack of resources and equipment. In doing so I have added to my teaching repertoire which I believe will make me a better teacher when I return to the classroom in Australia.

“Also, in running workshops for the teachers on  a variety of topics, I have furthered my own knowledge and understanding of these areas and will therefore be a more effective teacher myself. “

While the two teachers are quick to acknowledge that they have benefited from the experience, they did feel they had also made an impact.

They both immersed themselves in the culture, attending church and spending the days with the children.

Lidia with Lesotho school children

Lidia with some local village children

“We now eat pap and veg with our hands,” said Mancini.

Both were astonished at the natural beauty of the area surrounding Maliba Lodge.

“The scenery was simple spectacular,” said Young. “It brought tears to our eyes – it sounds corny, I know, but neither words nor pictures can adequately describe the beauty of this part of the world.”

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