Volunteers provide free education to poor students

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Volunteers provide free education to poor students

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Lee Dong-jeong, bottom right, and other volunteers hold letters spelling out “Teach for Korea” on Saturday at the Seo District Office library in Daegu. The groups teaches English to disadvantaged students for free. By Gong Jeong-sik

A few foreign volunteers working in Daegu are doing their part to bridge the educational divide between Korea’s richest and poorest students.

The group, comprised of recent college graduates and young people from four different countries, makes up Teach for Korea, a nonprofit project that aims to provide supplemental lessons to children from low-income or disadvantaged families who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise.

The effort is modeled after Teach for America - an organization that recruits recent university graduates to teach for two years in remote areas in the United States - and was first initiated by Lee Dong-jeong, who at the time was studying in Australia.

The 31-year-old said he previously taught free math lessons to elementary school students and considered doing the same for English. So in July, Lee posted an ad on Facebook pitching his idea and asking his friends to join in.

Angela, a 26-year-old American graduate of Columbia University, was the first to volunteer. Chris, a 39-year-old U.S. Air Force pilot, and Drickers, a 33-year-old South African English teacher, also expressed their interest in the project.

So far, 16 members have signed up: six from the United States, four from the United Kingdom, one from South Africa and five Koreans who previously studied overseas. In an effort to provide quality education to children who can’t afford private school, they even put together their own textbook.

“I didn’t just want to teach simple grammar, have cookies together and then say goodbye,” Angela said.

Teach for Korea holds two-hour classes every Saturday and Sunday at the library in the Seo District Office in Daegu, tutoring about 15 middle school students, all of whom either come from low-income households or live with extended family members.

For each class, a team of three volunteers teaches for the first hour, while another team rotates in for the second. “I can’t [afford] cram schools like other students,” one of the students said. “So I really appreciate their efforts to teach us English in a fun way.”

Teach for Korea currently hosts lessons in Seo District. They are also planning to establish additional English classes in other districts in Daegu by the end of this year and expand the scheme nationwide next year.

BY KIM YOUN-HO [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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