Shaban Ladeu has taught at Haddow Primary School in Maridi, Western Equatoria, since 2001. A teacher since 1981, Shaban is a dedicated educator; until the Government of Southern Sudan began paying teachers’ salaries this year, Shaban worked without remuneration, only occasionally receiving a small allowance culled from students’ tuition fees. The 80 students in his first grade class range in age from 6 to 12, and most began their formal education only this year. Many have just returned to Maridi with their families, who fled to other parts of the country during Sudan’s long civil war. Shaban teaches his classes in Juba Arabic, the only language common among his students, who are from a range of different tribes and linguistic groups.
Unlike many other schools in the area which conduct lessons under a tree, Haddow holds its classes in a school room built in 2003—one of the many recent signs of positive change in Southern Sudan. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended the years of war between the North and South; the establishment of the Southern Sudan Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MOEST) is helping build long-term capacity in the educational system; a new primary school curriculum is standardizing what students learn; and the payment of salaries is helping retain experienced teachers and attract new ones. But in his daily work, Shaban says the biggest transformation came through the introduction of the Learning Village education programs developed by EDC in collaboration with the MOEST.
Part of USAID’s effort to improve education in Southern Sudan, Learning Village uses the radio to reach learners, broadcasting daily lessons in local language literacy, English literacy, and mathematics. Shaban participated in EDC’s interactive radio instruction (IRI) training in March, along with 32 other first and second grade teachers from the Maridi area. To date, 542 teachers have been trained throughout Southern Sudan. The training focuses on how to operate the shortwave radio and deliver the radio lessons in the classroom. Already knowledgeable in course content, Shaban says that the greatest impact the Learning Village training program had on him was its affect on how he approaches teaching. Shaban’s former teaching style consisted of standing in front of the group, talking to them and writing information on the board while the students copied it. He remembers that he used to be stricter and more serious, tending to use traditional discipline in the classroom to achieve control. He also says his students were disruptive, disorganized, and inattentive.
But with the tools and training from the EDC program, Shaban says he has learned to be a better teacher. He prepares more effectively for each lesson, presenting lessons more systematically and creatively and soliciting the class’ active participation. His students work in pairs and small groups, and they participate in discussions and competitions that Shaban develops to encourage them to demonstrate what they are learning. As a result, he says, “My pupils are eager to attend, pay close attention to me and the radio teacher, and best of all, they do much better in their school work.” For example, Shaban had never taught his students songs before, but he has found that singing helps the children to remember their lessons and have fun learning. He says that his students can read better than ever before—they can identify letters and read words in the local language, and have increased their English vocabulary and comprehension better and faster than any other group of students he has taught. Enjoying lessons is a totally new concept for Shaban. “I used to think that school should be a place for discipline and obedience. Now I understand that children should have fun learning.”
Teachers in other grades have started to copy Shaban’s approach, and not only do they like the new methods, but their students also enjoy learning and parents have become enthusiastic fans as well. News of the program has spread throughout the area and parents have started to transfer their children into Haddow so that they too can benefit from this new approach toward teaching and learning.
Originally published on December 1, 2006