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By Heidi J. Higgins, Ph.D.

February 18, 2020

The Watson College of Education from the University of North Carolina Wilmington was pleased to make their third trip to visit and collaborate with students, faculty, and staff at the Fregenet School as part of an international studies program.  Dr. Heidi Higgins first brought university students to the Fregenet School in 2015 and again in 2017.  This year, Dr. Meredith Jones, an Assistant Professor in Leadership, Policy, and Advocacy in Early Childhood Education joined Dr. Higgins on the trip.  The university students consisted of 5 one graduate and five undergraduate students all studying to be teachers in the elementary and/or early childhood classroom.

During the 10 days in Ethiopia, the group spent their weekday mornings and afternoons devoted to engaging with students and teachers in three different school settings. Though each school offered incredible learning opportunities the group found that the interactions with the staff and students at the Fregenet School had the greatest impact on their professional and personal lives.  The students were given the opportunity to plan and teach lessons in English, collaborate with the classroom teachers, assist with serving and cleaning up meals, and had the chance to sing and dance with the students.  Overall, the time that was spent at the Fregenet School was one of the best parts of the trip.

The following quotes from our students illustrate the impact of this experience:

“The school is seen as an important and respected ally to the neighborhood communities. The teachers at this school hold the students accountable for their attendance, actions, and academic effort. The students seem to know and treat everyone like they are on a family basis. The interactions inside and outside the classroom seem to mold the growing relationships. The morning meeting is very active with different songs, movements, and games, but they also say their country’s pledge and sing the anthem as the flag is being raised.”

“It is such a joy to see their smiles, laughs, and encouragement from their peers and teachers when they are dancing and singing to traditional Ethiopian music. Starting from such a young age, the children grow up dancing, singing, and learning so much about their culture.”

“The teachers work together to achieve goals that hold students learning as a top priority. They work off each other and have a friendship that allows them to work efficiently and great together inside the classroom. They chime in to help one another when teaching and use each other’s strengths to create a well-rounded teaching duo. The student and teacher relationships are very uplifting. The teachers see their students as their children and make sure they are taught academically and morally.”

We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with the Fregenet School with future visits to the school through our International Study Abroad program as well as finding ways to work with the Foundation so that more children in Ethiopia can have access to the resources that the Fregenet School offers.

Heidi J. Higgins, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

University of North Carolina Wilmington

[email protected]