KAMPALA, UGANDA – Aleksandar Dimitrov spent three months working as a volunteer with Erasmus+ and the European Voluntary Service in conjunction with the Kawempe Youth Development Association Uganda. The project is designed to empower Ugandan youth through educational and vocational training and improvement of personal well-being with an aim to provide the students with the resources and skills necessary to better their living and employment situations for the long term.
One of Dimitrov’s volunteer responsibilities was to teach a business course to a group of Ugandan young women who had previously received vocational training in hairdressing and tailoring. He was eager to explore how The Art of Learning principles could support his students in deepening their understanding of business concepts and their drive to become life-long learners, as well as how to improve his own skills as a teacher. Dimitrov had his students work in groups in the interest of building community and to provide opportunities for the less outgoing students to participate in projects and discussions. Utilizing the principle of Listening First, he explored how each student approached the learning process and began to structure group makeup accordingly. By understanding student strengths he made a plan for how best to group them to bring out their knowledge and build upon their skill sets. He also found that by Listening First to his students, they would often assign themselves roles within the group that best fit their personal learning styles.
A long term goal Dimitrov held for his students was that they become curious and inspired learners with an ability to envision future scenarios. “This is a challenge,” Dimitrov explained “because there is a scarcity of basic needs such as food and housing, making it difficult to discuss and learn about some of the more complex educational and learning concepts.” Unemployment is a serious problem for young women in Kampala. Through the practice of envisioning a future in which they use their skills and vocational training, Dimitrov believes his students will develop an understanding of the possibilities for a future in which they are able to support themselves financially, and begin to develop a plan for how to do so. He is interested in further exploring the concept of Loving the Game to help his students build intrinsic motivation and to embrace learning challenges. “Painting the big picture is most important for me,” he explained, “This has to do with teaching these teenage girls to push themselves, not wait to be pushed to do the work they are best at.” As they begin to experience success with developing their business plans, he believes they will develop a love for the challenge itself, spurring them on toward a brighter and more sustainable future.
Dimitrov is in the process of creating a manual to be used by future volunteers in Uganda. He hopes that the practice of exploring The Art of Learning principles and helping the students deepen their passion for learning will extend well beyond his time with the organization.