Many of us forget to step back and realise how lucky we are here in Australia to have access t free high-quality education, which has the potential to change our lives. As someone who works across the media and education spaces, I’ve met my fair share of people who don’t value education. I know my friends and colleagues who are teaching in schools would agree that it can be quite difficult to convince kids of how lucky they are to be able to come to school.

While I am reaping the benefits of having an Australian education, it’s interesting and eye opening to understand more about the harsh reality facing kids in countries where access to education is limited. haven sat down with two amazing local Brisbane women who have taught in countries that aren’t as developed as Australia to hear their insights…

Sarah Kickbusch is a primary school teacher who worked as a volunteer teacher in Uganda for 11 months in a program that enabled orphaned kids to access education.

“They structured the intake to the school according to ability so if you were aged 9 and came in without being able to read and write, you would go into a Prep class,” Sarah says. “You would end up with 18-year-olds finishing primary school and you’d have a mix of ages learning together.”

Sarah says teaching in Uganda reminded her of the great advantages we have in wealthy countries such as Australia. Sarah recalls how many of the kids would speak about being so hungry before school that they would even eat dirt to feel full.

“In Australia, kids have access to iPads, tablets and computers in the classroom. We had generator power to run a set of computers that the kids would use for half an hour a week,” Sarah says. “We were really big on telling the kids that everybody deserves an education. These kids were orphans and had lost their families due to Aids and war, but had been taken into a program that enabled them to be educated.”

Brisbane-based lawyer Shalini Nandan-Singh always wanted to volunteer overseas and found her stride teaching English in Cambodia and Fiji. Her experiences teaching overseas are just as eye-opening as Sarah’s as they provide a look into the world that is geographically closer than Uganda but still so far from life here in Australia.

Having grown up in Australia and teaching at TAFE, Shalini says there is a real difference teaching in countries that are not as developed as Australia. There were no laptops, no computers – you were lucky if there was a whiteboard.

“However, education is a real priority and the kids are all respectful and very eager to learn,” Shalini says. “In Cambodia, school runs in half- day sessions because the children have to go and work for the other half of the day.”

“I found that children really valued the opportunity to be educated because it was so hard fought for. The kids understood how important it was,” Shalini says. “I was moved by it because here in Australia there is an entitlement mentality like education is owed to you.”

When reflecting on her time helping kids overseas, Shalini says it was very rewarding and a beautiful experience that changed her life.

While we Aussies can get so wrapped up in wanting to do well, sometimes we should step back and remember that we’re actually just so lucky to be able to even go to school.



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