Today’s blog post is written by Winrock staff Jennifer Robinson, a program associate/recruiter with the Volunteer Technical Assistance team, who traveled to Guinea last month and had the pleasure of participating in a class taught by one of our volunteers.
“A recent labor market study for Agriculture Education and Training (AET) in Guinea showed that graduates’ English language skills correlate strongly with employment after graduation. It is for that reason that Winrock volunteer Sandra Belson has been on assignment in Faranah, Guinea teaching English as a part of the USAID-funded Agriculture Education and Market Improvement Program.
During my trip to Guinea, I was lucky enough to attend Sandra’s classes at the Institut Supérieur Agronomique et Vétérinaire de Faranah (ISAVF). Sandra introduced me as a guest and told the students that after their work for the class was complete, they would have the opportunity to talk with me.
To start the activity, one student came to the front of the class and read aloud a story called I am the Forest. Then, another student on his team wrote questions on the board in English. The class worked together to answer the questions and to make sure all the spelling and grammar were correct. Their vocabulary and level of understanding were impressive. The careful thought put in to the comments and questions was apparent. Mistakes turned into opportunities to learn more, and the class was energetic despite the 100 degree weather that was melting this American visitor.
After the classwork was complete and arrangements were made for working on English language software in the computer lab, it was time for me to talk with the class. I learned a lot about the students. Not all were from Guinea. Many students come to the agriculture university from Niger and Cameroon as well. They are majoring in a variety of subjects including; agricultural engineering, aro-forestry, rural economics, and animal science. I asked each person why they wanted to learn English, and the most common answer I received was, ‘English is the international language.’ They all expressed that learning English would improve their futures by allowing them to be more marketable to employers and enabling them to communicate with people around the world. When I inquired about future plans I learned about the goals of these men and women. One young man would like to attend graduate school for agricultural engineering in the United States. A woman from Niger plans to work for the Ministry of Agriculture. One gentleman told me he’d like to become President.
From my observation, these men and women are well on their way to achieving whatever goals they set for themselves. They are clearly dedicated to education and are taking full advantage of the opportunity to learn English. As the class wrapped up and we ended with what became quite the photo shoot, I was pleased to have a student come up to me and thank me for sending him, ‘the best English teacher.’ I am glad that Winrock has the opportunity to share the skills of volunteers like Sandra Belson with our friends in Guinea.”