für die Zusammenarbeit mit Albanien
SATE stops Assistance
The Assistance of the Swiss Association of Teachers of English to Albania has ended. Jean Naterop looks back
Nine years ago when several eastern European countries were making the transition from communism to free market policies, inevitable difficulties arose in government, social, medical and educational sectors. At that time I was elected to the SATE committee, and my feeling was that we teachers of English could make a contribution towards helping colleagues in one of these countries to alleviate their very poor conditions.
The echo from members of our Association was positive, and although help abroad was not a function of SATE, a modest sum was approved to fund assistance in a limited way. Knowing that most teachers have a number of superfluous English books on their shelves at home and at school, I set out to collect these and send them to teachers of English in Albania. It was known how classes there functioned in badly equipped schools: usually the teacher had a textbook (perhaps twenty years old) and pupils - for reasons of economy - would write grammar notes and word lists in very small writing in their notebooks. When we were able to send a class set to a fortunate teacher she was delighted. At the same time I addressed pupils and asked them to write me a letter, explaining »Why we are learning English in our class«. It was surprising to read the replies I received, well written, many in a refreshing, original style. The classes that submitted such a piece of work got an extra book as a prize, usually an English dictionary. My contacts were usually members of the National Albanian English Teachers' Association, and I coordinated the sorting and delivery of material with the vice-president, Mrs Ksanthipi Dodi.
When I received hundreds of books from our members, those of the ETAS and from other sources, I enlisted the help of some volunteers to help sort and pack the books, tapes etc. ready for despatch. We invited teachers to come to Switzerland from Albania for a study period of two weeks, sponsored by the International Teachers' Exchange Organization and by SATE. These colleagues usually stayed with me, and I set up a programme of visits to several types of schools, teacher training or university courses for a short period. Sometimes they could attend ETAS convention, a WBZ course or a professional workshop. SATE and ETAS members were always ready to welcome our guests, to discuss educational matters and to provide help, often showing hospitality at their schools or their homes.
It was a memorable moment for me when I was invited to Albania as a guest of the NEATA, to meet personally some of the teachers with whom I had been in correspondence. I was known at schools all over the country as Mrs Jean and enjoyed hospitality at colleagues homes. At schools and at Tirana University I gave some talks and workshops, and was able to see at first hand their difficulties. But I was also able to witness how some of the books that we had sent were now the core of a new library, and to hear how teachers and educational authorities were encouraged by the rather modest help we had provided.
In spring l997 it became practically impossible to send books to Albania, on account of the political crisis. I could not stockpile any more material, so reluctantly I sent the last load to schools in Hungary, where the books and tapes were also welcome. The hospitality programme continued until last year, but now funds for this purpose are no longer available, and I have had to bring this to a close. Happily, conditions in Albania have been improving: bookshops have a wide range of publications available, and so I see it to be fitting now to end our assistance to English teachers there.
I am indebted to many people and organizations who gave me moral, financial and physical support during these last nine years by their voluntary help: the SATE committee, especially Daryl Babcock, the ETAS Committee, Geogina Hanselmann, Alice Meister of the Ladies' English Club KVZ, Michel Kenedy who helped with transport, Ksanthipi Dodi at the receiving end, Peter Erhard and ila/WBZ, St Andrews Church Bazaar and the Swiss Embassy at Tirana. And my thanks go particularly to YOU, dear readers, who sent me books, tapes, letters and encouragement.
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