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Rocking the classroom

Written by Tearfund | 13 Nov 2019

How a group of teachers from the UK rocked a maths class in rural Zambia… with the help of Freddie Mercury and Queen.

The challenges facing Zambian teachers are huge. They have few resources, little to no pay and overcrowded classrooms.

Tearfund Go volunteers, James and Cathryn, watched some of Zambia’s dedicated teachers at work and offered them a few tips and tricks to make their lives easier.

‘The school staff we worked with are inspiringly passionate and dedicated, but there is very little funding,’ explains student and Tearfund Go volunteer James. ‘Basic resources such as paper or chalk are in short supply. One teacher shared that she has a class of 85 children. That creates a space problem. Children are often crammed three or four to a desk, and sometimes even have to sit on the floor.’

‘The community school teachers have very little training,’ adds fellow teacher Cathryn. ‘The main method of teaching in Zambia is through rote learning, which focuses on memorising facts through repetition.

‘It was a real privilege to encourage the teachers with interactive teaching methods.We wanted to bring a bit of energy and excitement into the classroom.’

Learning together
To share their insights, Cathryn and the team decided to run a three day teacher training course with the help of Tearfund’s partner organisation in Zambia, the Jubilee Centre. Encouraging the teachers to break away from repetitive rote learning, they introduce simple, fun teaching techniques.

‘One of the highlights was chanting the multiplication tables with body percussion to the rhythm of We Will Rock You by Queen.’

As well as reinventing classic rock, the training was a personal learning experience for the Tearfund Go volunteers says James:

‘It was a real cultural exchange. The teacher training wasn’t just one way. It was a catalyst for ideas and experience to be shared across the whole group. This was one of the most humbling experiences of the trip; I realised that I wasn’t the expert and had so much to learn too.’

Serious fun
Following the training sessions the team were able to visit some of the teachers at their schools to see how they had put the training into practice. Mr Kelvin, who attended the sessions, explained the difference the new teaching techniques had made:

‘The Tearfund team were our friends and our partners. I learnt a lot of games – things like dance and drama to help in the lessons. We have been using drama to help the classes with their revision.

‘My favourite game was hangman. I have used it to introduce my lessons since then. The class enjoyed it so much and nearly everyone learnt from the games. It opens pupils' minds – now it’s difficult for me to teach without these games!’

As Nelson Mandela said: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.’ Thanks to a meeting of minds between two sets of teachers, that world-changing learning has become serious fun for hundreds more kids.


  • Thank God for the shared learning and friendships between Tearfund Go volunteers and the communities they work with.
  • Pray for more opportunities for teachers to receive training across Zambia.
  • Pray that the teachers in Zambia’s community schools will remain passionate and committed.

Written by

Written by  Tearfund

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