By Tsion Issaya, Communications Manager, British Council Ethiopia.
Meet 60 year old Haile Berhe. For more than half his life, he has worked as an English teacher. Born and raised in a small town in Tigray regional state, he complete his primary education at a Catholic school. Haile speaks very good English and he attributes that to his early schooling years. “I have very good background in the English language. I have no trouble understanding and communicating with native speakers because all my teachers were foreigners with English as their primary language,” he says. “But this may not be the case with younger teachers who did not have the same access to foreigners that I enjoyed.”
Haile recently took part in a workshop organised by British Council for it’s Learn English Radio Pilot (LEAP). “I consider myself very fortunate to be part of this training since it mainly addresses one of the major challenges we are facing in teaching English in Ethiopia,” Haile noted. Teaching listening skills has been challenging for teachers like Haile as they did not have the right resources. And because of this, teachers are forced to speak in their students’ native languages to get their lessons across while teaching English. “British Council audio content through LEAP will give us the relevant resources and knowledge to be able to engage with our students better,” Haile added. “I am very happy to be part of this.”
Haile has been a dedicated and resourceful teacher. Most of his students have gone on to become doctors, engineers, and a few, English teachers themselves. Tesfaye is one of Haile’s students. He is now an English teacher and he also attended the three-day LEAP training with his former teacher and idol. “Mr Haile is like a father to me. He was a great teacher and had a lot to do with why I became one myself,” Tesfaye said. He talked about how Haile used to bring a small radio to class so that students would be able to practice their English. Haile now has the Lifeplayer to replace his old radio. “This project is going to change everything,” he said, “now we have the right resources to deliver more effective lessons.”
Haile is going to retire soon but not before he rolls out LEAP in his school. “I am very lucky I am given this opportunity to conclude my career on a high note,” he said.
And fortunately, Tesfaye is ready to make the leap from radio to MP3 players and thus step in to his mentor’s boots.
Haili’s story is the first of ten articles featuring notable teachers for UNESCO’s #teachertuesday campaign. For more information about the campaign and how it focuses on the importance of teachers, please visit UNESCO’s website. For more information about British Council’s LEAP project in Ethiopia please contact us.