REF: EB/NL/31/21-22 DATE: July 2, 2022
An Interview with a Special Education Needs Educator
AF Education Board member, Sis Mehdiya Sheriff, interviewed Sis Swaleha Mohamedali Chandoo who is an Experienced Special Education Needs Educator working at Jaffery Academy – Arusha. She pioneered the special education needs department at Jaffery Academy from 2006 and works there as the head of department. Sis Swaleha holds a Master’s degree in Education and specialized in Special Education needs.
Mehdiya: What inspired you to become a teacher? Since for some its arguably one of the challenging professions.
Swaleha: As a child I wanted to become either a nurse or a teacher because I resonated a lot with the idea of nurturing and caring. At the age of 12, I made up my mind to become a teacher. I wanted to leave an impact on someone’s life as my teacher Mrs. Mohammed, left on mine. Between the ages of 5 to 12 years I could not wear shoes due to chronic eczema. I was going to school bare foot. I wish during the 70’s, there was social media, I would have had many friends. I didn’t have friends then as my feet used to ooze and flies were my only best friends. I was on the disability zone. Emotionally, socially and physically. At the age of 12 during my final CPE exams at Alibhai Panju, Mombasa, I was scheduled to amputate both my feet by a German surgeon. My invigilator (Late) Mrs Mohamed from Saudi Arabia insisted my Late father (who used to carry me to and from my seat) not to take me for amputation but instead use the ointment which she availed. She urged dad to postpone the surgery for just a week. If there was no improvement, then I could be taken in for amputation. This wonderful soul in a fraction of a second touched my heart and changed my life. She gave me a vision. I owe my two happy feet to her. The first time my feet fitted into a pair of shoes was my wedding.
Mehdiya: What career path did you embark upon?
Swaleha: My first certificate was a Practical Certificate in Montessori from a Catholic Sister’s school in Montessori in Dar es Salaam. After I got married, that’s right, I started my main education after marriage, my husband and I are very education oriented.
Experience at the time came from giving tuitions at home in the evenings. After shifting countries to Botswana, I did my early childhood education diploma and another Montessori certificate on a distance learning course with UK whilst in Botswana. I then joined a teacher training college in Botswana to continue my training annually for primary teaching certificate. I finally enrolled into University after that and got my Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of SA in 2005, which I also pursued through distance learning.
I continued furthering my education until I returned back to Tanzania, and being used to continuously studying, I decided to pursue a Degree of Masters of Science, in educational management & counselling, after being inspired during my job here in Arusha.
That was my last degree, but I still continue giving and receiving workshop trainings in and outside Tanzania as those are more focused and up-to-date in the field. Currently saving up to pursue my PhD in Special Needs.
Mehdiya: What is your current job and what does your job entail?
Swaleha: I have pioneered and continue to work at the Special Needs Department in Jaffery Academy. My current job entails giving life and independent skills training to young adults with different abilities.
Mehdiya: What would one aspiring for this profession require?
Swaleha: Some qualities of a good teacher include skills in communication, listening, collaboration, adaptability, empathy and patience. Other characteristics of effective teaching include an engaging classroom presence, value in real-world learning, exchange of best practices and a lifelong love of learning.
Mehdiya: What challenges do you foresee within our community, that there are very few teachers especially at primary and secondary levels?
Swaleha: Teaching has increasingly become more difficult with time and student success is falling at an alarming rate. Based on research, 7 of the most common challenges faced by teachers today are:
1. Inspiring students to be more self-directed
Teachers are having a tough time getting students to be more self-directed. They are looking for a way to ease the pressure of students by keeping them interested and making sure that lesson practices and the homework delivered is fun, accessible anywhere, targeted to improve their weaknesses and ensuring that learning takes place in a more conducive, less-tense, less-pressured environment.
2. Improving Learning Outcomes
Designing Learning Outcomes that mean something and are an effective way to measure student potential and success is a big challenge. Meeting those learning outcomes and having solid indicators to prove this, all the while easing the paperwork and the excel sheets of the teachers have become unthinkable. Even if these are done well, teachers still don’t get that 360° view of how good their students are as a whole. In addition, finding the right way to automate this process in such a way that real time results are what’s needed is of prime importance.
3. Differentiating and personalizing teaching
What works for one student, does not work for another. Teachers have recognized this but have very few ways to test and make sure that different skill levels are being evaluated. A new wave of assessments and how teaching is conducted is important. Newer question types, media-enhanced exams and the like are what teachers are looking for; diversifying teaching and keeping it simple at the same time is a balance that is hard to find.
4. Getting students to do their work outside the classroom
What students do at schools is just a fraction of the effort that needs to be put in for academic success. With this in mind, teachers have the extra added pressure of having students put in the extra effort outside of the classroom. Students still have found no proper incentive to deal with this issue. Teachers are looking for a way that they can encourage students to learn while they’re having fun and not make it seem like pursuing knowledge is a tedious task.
5. Finding the time to keep up with administrative tasks
It takes a lot of time and work to come up with curriculum, teach, be engaged with classrooms, come up with questions for assessments, spend time(and sometimes weekends) correcting and grading these assessments, and then having to spend hours filling out reports, analysis, strengths, weaknesses and other performance indicators. Teachers are looking for ways to be eased of this burden so that they can focus on teaching and promoting the importance of education and learning.
6. Understanding Changing Technology
With the advance of the internet and changing technology, teachers have been finding it hard to find easy yet effective systems and platforms to run their classrooms.
7. Parental Involvement
Having the parents of students informed and involved is one major area that teachers and admins are having a hard time to keep up with. Teachers are looking for an easy way to have parents be a part of their child’s journey and have a good understanding of their skills and monitoring their performances on a regular basis.
The Education Board of Africa Federation takes this opportunity to appreciate and thank Mrs. Swaleha Mohamedali for sharing her inspirational career journey and making a difference in children’s lives. We wish her the best in her future endeavors.
Africa Federation Education Board