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Regional News

US-based volunteer teaching group halts service

MAJURO — A United States-based volunteer teaching program that has served the Marshall Islands for 17 years wrapped up its operations this week as part of a worldwide review of its program.

The WorldTeach program has provided volunteer teachers to Marshall Islands public schools since 2002. At one time, the program supplied as many as 30 teachers a year, with many working on remote outer islands. For the school year just completed, WorldTeach provided 17 volunteer teachers — seven of whom came in January for the second semester.

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In this file photo, an American WorldTeach volunteer teacher works with students in a public school in Majuro. The program has halted services globally to reevaluate its program.  Marshall Islands Journal photo

Dynamics in the world of volunteers have changed dramatically in recent years, leading WorldTeach to “take pause to think strategically about the future of the organization and to recalibrate as necessary and feasible,” said Dr. Fernando Reimers, president of the board of directors, and Dr. Mitra Shavarini, the program’s executive director.

WorldTeach is not sending any volunteers abroad for the 2019-2020 school year. “The future of any additional cohorts will be evaluated during this process of strategic planning phase, as we examine options,” they said in a letter to program partners last month.

They said they remained optimistic about the program on its 33rd anniversary. “We’ve come a long way since our humble beginnings, a student-run organization at Harvard University’s Phillips Brook House,” Reimers and Shavarini said.

In its 33 years, World Teach has provided over 7,500 teachers to 34 countries.

“As a leader in international education, we have supported volunteers to fulfill educational needs of local communities while providing volunteers with transformative, culturally immersive experiences, grounded in pedagogical training and engagement in the local community.”

They said they are still committed to serving global education needs “and we look forward to remaining in touch with future projects.”

Aside from the benefit to local schools and students of volunteer teachers on one-year assignments, a substantial number of WorldTeach volunteers were hired by the Marshall Islands Public School System after their volunteer period was finished.

The only other volunteer teachers still serving the Marshall Islands are provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.