Aurora, Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Alternative, Lesotho, Lesotho Association of Teachers
From the time I was given the opportunity to partake in an international internship through the University of Ottawa, I began researching and prepping in order to be adequately prepared for my position as an intern with the Lesotho Association of Teachers (LAT) located in the Kingdom of Lesotho. While the research and preparations aided in the fundamental work portion of my internship, I admit that I was fully unprepared for the cultural and emotional aspect. While my assignment was fairly simple: I had to read documents, write proposals, and reach out to different people and organizations, the magnitude of the challenge seemed increasingly daunting the more that I learned of the needs that exist within education in Lesotho and in essence, the actual purpose of the internship - to help and support children and teachers in their educational goals.
Being raised in a predominantly white and privileged small town in rural Ontario, I was admittedly unaware of the mass injustices occurring around the world. I had enough knowledge to want to pursue a major in Conflict studies and Human Rights, but not enough to be able to grasp a wholesome understanding of the many daily battles fought by oppressed groups internationally and domestically. So, despite my two and a half years studying human rights violations and developing countries within the classroom, it was very disconcerting to see first-hand the struggles that many are faced with. In Lesotho, there is a lack of technology, resources, training, and money within the country, and more specifically within the education system. In many areas there are over one hundred kids in one classroom of varying ages and grade levels, which presents teachers with huge challenges when trying to connect with their students – to say the least, it is not an ideal educational environment. Due to the large numbers and limited support, there is essentially no aid for students with exceptionalities and they oftentimes decide to drop out. My biggest struggle has been that I deeply empathize with the admin of the LAT and wanting to support them and their teachers and students, but it’s so challenging to achieve the ideal result of immediate financial and educational support.
Coming into the internship, I was fairly idealistic about the productivity of my duties and my contribution. However, once working to complete tasks and attempting to reach out to different groups, I realized the difficulties NGO’s are faced with. In the case of the LAT, funding is a large concern. It has been heartbreaking to read and hear about the LAT’s various projects and initiatives that are focused on uplifting and supporting teachers and students of different races and genders, but being unable to actively implement them. However, now into the 6th week of the internship, progress is beginning to be made. Within the past couple weeks I have begun drafting proposals for promising grants, and have connected the LAT with educational resources within Canada. This past week LAT’s Secretary General presented for the staff of a school in the Greater Toronto Area, with the purpose of facilitating a two-way educational relationship between teachers. The school is also working towards donating textbooks, teaching guides, and other educational resources to the LAT.
Therefore, the biggest takeaway for me so far is that it is important to be able to adapt and adhere to conditions that vary from original expectations. In accepting that progress would take time and that it would be made even more difficult by the barriers of communication due to Covid-19, I was able to alter my original plan and quickly come up with other options more suited for the current needs and goals of the organization. It has been an eye-opening experience that I am very grateful for, as I have gained practical work experience and received first-hand knowledge of developing countries, cultures, and different political systems. I have been privileged to learn from those at LAT, and am looking forward to expanding my knowledge and understandings throughout the rest of the internship.