Vanessa's equipped to teach - and learn

VANESSA Knight is hoping for a cold day later this month when she boards a flight from Melbourne to Vanuatu.

Third-year Deakin University student teacher Vanessa Knight is preparing for a work experience stint in Vanuatu — taking as many books for her pupils as possible.    140609AM25 Picture: ANGELA MILNE

Third-year Deakin University student teacher Vanessa Knight is preparing for a work experience stint in Vanuatu — taking as many books for her pupils as possible. 140609AM25 Picture: ANGELA MILNE

That’s because she’s likely to be wearing most of the clothes she will be taking for her three-and-a-half-week teaching stint on the South Pacific island nation so she can devote most of her luggage space to stationery for the primary school pupils she will be teaching.

Ms Knight, 25, is one of 16 Deakin University teaching students who will work in Vanuatu as part of Deakin’s Global Education Program.

Ms Knight will be the only student from Deakin’s Warrnambool campus to take part and has been fund-raising to pay for the 208 exercise books, pencils and other stationery she will take to a school in the village of Mele Maat.

There, she will lead a class of 104 pupils under the supervision of a local teacher. Her pupils come from families who survive on subsistence agriculture and own no school books.

The teaching stint will bring Ms Knight, a third-year bachelor of education student, back to basic teaching methods.

One of the tasks she hopes to complete is to create blackboards on which to outline learning exercises for pupils.

Her time in Vanuatu will also enable her to experience a less regimented but highly valued education system. Education in Vanuatu was not compulsory and parents sent their children to school because they could see its benefits, she said.

Australians took their education system for granted but in Vanuatu it was considered a reward, Ms Knight said. In Vanuatu, pupils have to fit their schooling in with farm and other family duties, meaning their attendance was not enforced.

Pupils are grouped according to their ability rather than their age, so her class members might range in age from three-and-a-half to 14 years.

The pupils’ variable attendance and the wide age range means classroom management is a priority.

A big workload will add further challenges. Her days will start about 6.30am, with classes beginning from 7am-9am.

After classes finish about 2.30pm, Ms Knight will run after-school sport sessions for pupils for about 90 minutes before moving on to guidance sessions with local teachers over dinner.

Most pupils have a good grasp of English but Ms Knight has also learnt some of the local language, Bislama, to help her communicate.

She hopes the opportunity to work in Vanuatu would make her a better teacher and help prepare her for later this year when she will teach surfing to primary school children in South Africa.

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