Leh We Go Befoh – Let us Move Forward

Angie Ortlieb

adding depth to our understand­ing. It is not realistic to expect co-tutors to read endlessly before heading overseas, nor is this the only step necessary for effective work. Instead this reading has the potential to move us forward and to develop a framework that includes multiple social and historical layers.

Prioritize Local Materials : Many volunteers  feel that incorporating local resources into PO is very important, and I remember conversations about this at pre-departure training. My research shows that Sierra Leonean educators also place great value on local knowledge. Until my fieldwork, I did not realize just how limited I was in this capacity. I remember my team suggesting teachers use bottle caps for math counters since we were finding them all over the streets of Freetown. These suggestions were well-intentioned but we were told there were no soft drinks available in rural villages, the communities where the workshop participants taught. We also suggested using natural products such as seeds. An interviewee explained that hun­gry students might eat the counters. So even in instances where we thought we were incorporating local materials that would work, we were not. Taking the time to facilitate discussion about local materials and knowledge in our PO workshops and with our co-tutors is crucial to developing a locally relevant program.

Valuing Cultural Knowledge: knowledge has been an important part of my learning experience and has guided my recommendations. During the interviews, teachers specifically mentioned in corpo­ rating cultural knowledge. One Sierra Leonean teacher believes drumming, dancing, and local rhymes should be emphasized in PO and stated that children should not be separated from their culture. Another teacher thought PO should include many topics in relation to cultural knowl­edge, such as the history and migration of different ethnic groups in Sierra Leone. He stated that every district in Siena Leone has a story for its name and believed this topic would provide a strong starting point for discussion. Work­ in together, we can develop curriculum that includes this cultural knowledge.

Asking Deep Questions:  From my experience, participants in Sierra Leone are often very excited to be a part of PO and meet Canadian teachers, and seem to enjoy the interactive experiences. As a Canadian co-tutor, it is easy to get lost in this excitement, with a great feeling that you are mak­ing a difference. This enthusiasm can drive the program forward but it is important to step back and ask questions.

For example, the following critical questions, adapted from the work of Linda Tuhiwai Smith and Shawn Wilson, could remind us about PO’s intentions and help us infuse local resources into the workshops whenever possible.

  • For whom is this project relevant and how do I know? Who defined the terms of


etfo members posing with ugandan teachers

My primary assignment as a Project Overseas participant in Uganda was to facilitate, with my Ugandan co-tutor, a series of workshops in ear

three students walking through hallway smiling at camera

There’s no such thing as a teacher who doesn’t have a diverse classroom in one form or another.