The ability to instill the joy of learning no matter the circumstance is a universal hallmark of good teachers. Marymount University education students learned that lesson in an unforgettable way during a trip to a remote Ugandan school.
“It’s a great opportunity to experience education in a different way but also see the similarities and universal trends, such as the need for teachers to let their students know they care and to recognize they have different learning needs,” said Mary Gibson
, director of Marymount’s Professional Development Schools in the School of Education and Human Services.
Gibson and six education students were in Uganda for a week as part of an annual collaboration with Arlington Academy of Hope. The school was founded in 2004 by John and Joyce Wanda, natives of Uganda who immigrated to the U.S. to start a new life. The school grew from their determination to provide educational opportunity to the children of their home villages. Marymount President Matthew D. Shank sits on the organization’s advisory council.
Working with the Academy is an experience Marymount faculty and students have had since 2011, when Dr. Alice Young, a retired professor of education, traveled there to conduct teacher training. Now MU students and faculty go to Uganda each year to train local teachers, deliver supplies and conduct research, exemplifying a local partnership with a global impact. This year’s group included graduate students Kristine Young, Margot Rhyu, Kelly Labriola, Tricia Mangas, and Betty Stobo; and undergraduate Brenda Recinos.
The trip is part of a course in which students learn about Ugandan culture, education, and the Arlington Academy of Hope school. In addition to the school’s founders, guest speakers included Arlington Academy of Hope head teachers, who visited the class during a trip to the United States.
“You can never fully prepare them, because until you get there, it’s really difficult to understand how rural it is,” said Gibson, who made her fourth trip to Uganda. “But when they go with an open mind they have such a great experience because the school is an oasis, full of friendliness and joy.”
The Marymount students took showers out of a bucket, ate lunch without utensils, used outhouses and went without electricity.
Graduate student Kristine Young, a mother of four, was impressed with the knowledge and commitment of the Ugandan teachers and students.
“When asked a question, every student would raise his or her hand,” Young said. “They were respectful and trusted to do their work. A teacher left the classroom and the students continued to study. Every student took pride in his or her work.”
Not only were the Ugandan teachers respected and knowledgeable, they had fun teaching.
“Every teacher had a sense of humor and could interject a joke,” she said. “They were teaching not for the money, because teaching is not that well regarded, but because they loved learning and the students. Many of the teachers wanted to improve their country through educating the students.”
Young was most impressed by the openness and affection the Ugandan people have for others.
“The villages are small with few resources,” she said “The people all know and help each other out. The poorest of the poor were taken care of by the village.”
Gibson said the trips help Marymount students have a better understanding of diversity.
“It’s important to go to another place and see how other cultures value education and have their own traditions,” she said. “It helps students have that different perspective.”
She feels blessed that Marymount offers this type of experience.
“Often the way education programs are put together, there’s not always a lot of opportunity to go abroad and have that global experience,” she said. “Marymount has done a really good job of finding a way to connect that global experience to what our students are doing. It’s a great opportunity and unique to our program.”
Marymount University is an independent, coeducational Catholic university offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines.
Professor Mary Gibson, director of Marymount’s Professional Development Schools in the School of Education and Human Services, and six Marymount education students were in a remote village in Uganda as part of an annual collaboration with Arlington Academy of Hope.
A group of students at Arlington Academy of Hope in Uganda.
Marymount University graduate student Kristine Young, second from left, working with Ugandan teachers.
Crowds watch relay races between eight schools in Uganda.