AC and International Teacher Training Programs
Associate Professor Jennie Bickmore-Brand
Papua New Guinea
Since 2002, Jennie Bickmore-Brand, Associate Professor of Education at Alphacrucis (AC) University College has conducted a volunteer annual teacher training program with the Kokoda Trek Foundation (KTF). Knowing that literacy and critical thinking will be the passport to Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) participation in the world economy, she assisted the Foundation to develop a teacher training program which began with the schools in the villages along the Kokoda Track. (PNG is currently ranked 7th wealthiest in terms of mineral resources, and 10th poorest in terms of standard of living). The teaching program is now being rolled out across all the provinces, with the government using KTF personnel (train the trainer).
In addition, Jennie has spawned a book making project where she assists the village teachers to write and make their own books to capture their own culture and stories. Jennie has published a set of Beginning Readers using photos that many Australian visitors have taken as they have walked the pilgrimage in that significant theatre of World War II that stopped the Japanese invasion of Australia. The children’s alphabet is “P for palm tree,” “M for mango” instead of the old cast off mission’s materials that have pictures of sheep and far off places that the children cannot relate to. The pride with which the teachers look at their own published stories is part of the transformational power of self efficacy.
On one occasion, Jennie visited a village that didn't have a school. She met with the chiefs and elders and spoke of how important education would be for their nation. One year later, the palm building is up and awaiting approval, and they have a husband and wife team doing the KTF training.
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In 2015, Jennie connected at the International Christian Schooling conference in Melbourne where Ps Fred Mukasa was attending from Antioch True Believers Church in Wakiso, (just outside of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda). His church not only had a fledgling rural church plant but had established several schools in poor outlying regions and Ps Fred oversees a network of over 20 schools. Over time, the government registration authorities are requiring more substantial facilities for the students, and it is threatened many of their existence… and so began the Hope and Care Nursery School Project.
Jennie, together with her church, Life Expedition, in the university precinct of Melbourne’s CBD, began a commitment to sponsorship and visitation. The experience was an eye opener. Being predominantly Malaysian, with a ministry outreach to International students, to see others as the ones to minister to, and in a third world country, was a paradigm shift for some, and they embraced it whole-heartedly.
In 2018, Dr Jennie will run leadership classes with other stakeholders in the Christian Education space in Uganda: Africa for Revival University, New Hope International and ACSI affiliated schools. Uganda has only recently come through a grievous border war period and a generation of men and leadership is now needing to be rebuilt. One young man is about to begin his studies to be a Lawyer and hopes to do Constitutional Law to redress the disenfranchisement of women. Jennie finds supporting the women in the micro businesses is also part of the process of Ugandans reimagining a new future. A little bit goes a long way and the daily What’s App to and fro across the oceans keeps the chain of mutual encouragement strong.
In 2015, Jennie also visited Zambia for the first time accompanying Dr Craig Murison from Mackay Christian College (now Dean of Education at Christian Heritage College), where she had been doing a consultancy. The college had a long term relationship of mentoring and hosting teachers with the Foundation for Cross Cultural Education, an international school and community development training organisation. Despite the third world conditions and challenging lifestyles of the children in the schools in rural Zambia, they are ministered to in unique and best practice ways that not only are truly impressive but entirely humbling.
Jennie was asked if she would do an audit Review of their Bachelor of Education program. It is with awe and some considerable trepidation that one goes into a different culture and critiques a fundamental institution like education. The generosity of the lecturing staff in making their materials fully available and their openness to feedback was coupled with infrequent segments of generator power for lighting, not to mention the occasional “natural wildlife.”
A return visit, this time with FCE to Australia, with most of their lecturing staff and leadership team occurred in 2016. Alphacrucis University College and Mackay Christian College jointly ran the International Conference The DNA of Christian Schooling where participants benefited from sharing one another’s expertise and the profound skills of the FCE team. The anticipation of another on the job training visit in 2018 looms as friendships are forged across the nations.