Spotlight On Eritrea
Eritrea? Yes! Voluntary Service Overseas (see the TEFL Logue post on VSO) is a non-profit organization which coordinates the placement of volunteers with professional qualifications, including a large number of English teachers, and one of the countries in which there is a great need for English teachers in Eritrea.
Eritrea is a country without many natural resources, and as such, “human capital”, which is of course increased through education, is at the top of its list of priorities. VSO addresses a number of issues in Eritrea, including a general shortage of qualified teachers, the current-but-improving lack of capacity to train enough new teachers, and gender equality among teachers – and correspondingly, role models in education for girls – through its volunteers.
You can find out a great deal more about Eritrea and VSO’s work there on the VSO site, including a profile of the country, which includes links to accounts from past and present teachers there, such as Sandy Biggar.
He reports that, aside from teaching classes of up to 70 students, he started learning the local language (Tigrinya), attending local festivities (daily coffee ceremonies, and less frequent but even more festive weddings), and enjoying local food. He is currently enrolled in a (post-)graduate program in international relations, in order to pursue work in the sector of development.
VSO attributes the reduction in number of volunteers participating in its Eritrea program to media portrayal of the country as dangerous, and is attempting to provide a more balanced look at the country through the experience of its volunteers. I hope to be able to feature some email interviews with both past and present VSO teachers, in Eritrea and perhaps some of the other countries which VSO has a shortage, including Nigeria, Pakistan, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka.