“It’s important that our pupils are informed citizens”

Teacher Mary Penderleith, of Hazlehead Primary School in Aberdeen, shares her summer experience of teaching and mentoring in Rwanda with the Wood Foundation’s Global Learning Partnerships programme

I’d always wanted to teach abroad. Global Learning Partnerships offered the chance to go abroad for a period of time and it was in the summer holidays.

Rwanda is fantastic. For four weeks, I stayed in a little village called Ruhuha, in the Bugesera district. The people were extremely welcoming. They want to know all about you – even the students were very inquisitive about life in a westernised country. What were the similarities? What were the differences? It was a curiosity, and very much with a view to improve their own country.


I had two schools – every day, I would go into classes and I would observe what was going on to get to know the context. I would speak to the teachers, get to know their needs and try to help them. I did a lot of work on mentoring teachers – I would run workshops for teachers around the exams, and train them in phonics, assessment strategies and effective questioning.

The experience taught me, as a teacher, that I have more knowledge than I initially thought. You have to think on your feet, with minimal resources. I think it’s really good for teachers to experience that. I took out a lot of resources that I’d printed to show them, and they were very quick to say, ‘This is really nice, but we can’t afford to recreate it. How can we recreate that?’ I had to work round that.

When I came back, I shared everything with my school. I held a big Rwandan assembly, and we also had an African day – the children had to dress in the colours of an African country to emphasise the point that Africa is a continent. I’ve also given an assembly on world food and world hunger, and I’ve created resource packs for all the teachers on global citizenship. I’m in charge of the global citizenship action plan for the school too.


I learned so much by going to Rwanda, and hopefully the people I was working with learned from me being there. That will cascade down to other teachers there too.

I think for my school, the real benefit will come over time. It’s important that our pupils are informed citizens. They need to know what’s going on in the world around them.

I’d go back to Rwanda in a heartbeat. If they let me, I’d be training again right now! I can’t recommend it more highly, I really can’t.

Find out more


Global Learning Partnerships is an 18-month professional development programme for primary and secondary teachers in Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray. The programme places teachers in Rwandan schools for four weeks, to help enhance capacities of teachers in the host country and grow and develop global citizenship teaching in Scotland through firsthand experience. Applications for 2015 have now closed, but check the Wood Foundation website (www.thewoodfoundation.org.uk) for future opportunities.


Teachers’ Resource, Spring 2015