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Violet Ongele Hindle

Violet Ongele Hindle studies on our BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies degree, and works part-time in a primary school. Originally from Kenya, she moved to England after working in many different countries including Dubai, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

Violet Ongele in a garden

Who are you and what do you do at ARU?

My name is Violet Ongele Hindle and I am a mother of one daughter, Chelsea. I work part time in a mainstream primary school and on top of that I study Early Childhood Studies at ARU Chelmsford.

It's sometimes really hard to juggle because there's so much work commitments and with the assignments, with all the different modules in uni, it takes up so much time as well. So it's just trying to find that balance too. So I set up different times when I know these hours are my study hours, or this is me being a Mum time, this is me working, this is me being a wife. It can get tricky, but we have got to get a bit of balance somewhere. And at the end of the day, when I get this qualification, I'll be very happy.

Did you always know that you would go to university and, if not, what changed your mind?

I always wanted to, because my inspiration was to be the first female in my family to get a degree qualification. In Kenya you go to primary school, then it's senior school, then you get to go to university - I’m sure it’s all changed now. So we don't have the A-Level gap. You study up to AS-Level and then from the AS-Level that takes you to university straight away.

If your grades are ok and you apply to some universities, at most of them you end up paying yourself. We don't have student finance helping with the funding. If you’re top, top students, then the government pays some elements for you. But if you don’t and you still qualify to go to uni, then it’s just a community thing - people raise funds and take you to university. So that was always a dilemma because I didn't come from a very able background. It was a question of “Are you going to do a college degree where you can earn money really quickly and support the rest of your siblings, or are you going to depend on people to take you to school?” And that's why I didn't do it at that time. I decided to get the quickest qualification I could and get a job.

What did you do before coming to ARU?

My first job was actually in Kenya, where I worked with Kenya Wildlife Services doing logistics and procurement. But I also wanted to travel the world and just experience something different, because I always felt like I needed more than what I had. I got a job with Kenya Airways, but that was still in procurement, which I felt wasn't taking me anywhere. Then I decided to work with a coffee company, testing the coffee and buying the beans from places like Ethiopia and some in Kenya, roasting them and exporting them. That wasn’t so much fun!

I started looking online and thinking “OK, can I just go somewhere and be someone different, or do something else?” And that's how I got the job in Jumeirah Group in Dubai. I went into the hospitality route, doing admissions in a water park. It went really well because three months later they promoted me to Team Leader, but we were working 14 hour days and you'd only get one day off of work, if you were lucky, which was quite strenuous. With the one day I had I would help people learn English, because we all came from different parts of the world, and that's how this journey of teaching started. When I met my husband and we moved to India and Sri Lanka, I decided “You know what? I'm going to actually get into teaching.” So I taught in Sri Lanka a little bit, and I taught in Tanzania, but then it was more young adults than children. The hours were ok, but it made me wonder how they would teach children - was it so different? And that's why I chose primary education.

Violet Ongele in a garden

What made you want to get involved with teaching in the first place?

I just wanted to give back and learn the system so I could also support my daughter more. I felt my own education in Kenya was so different - everything from curriculum delivery to resources to class sizes and ratios - and I didn't want to impact her in a way that wasn't similar to what they do here. I thought if I had the skills, then maybe I could support her more. I want to give her the best that I didn't have so at least she can have something better and be an independent part of the community.

When we moved from Tanzania to England, I decided to do some voluntary work in schools, since my daughter was about three years old. So that gave me a bit of a spark to see how the education system here works.

When I went to school we had one room that didn't even have enough tables and chairs. Most of the learning took place outside, under a tree if the weather was ok. It is was raining we'd all come back into one room - we had over 60 to 70 children in one class with one teacher. We didn't have any teaching assistants. We didn't have any interactive white boards. Even books and papers were always so scarce that most of the things were always hand-me-downs. We didn't see much diversity in terms of different needs, like how we see it here, where everything is so incorporated and inclusive. So I was always thinking “Wow, you can do this here? You can do this?” That was really inspiring for me, so I just decided to get into teaching.

What do you hope to do when you graduate from ARU?

In my work, I cover all sorts of different classes. I plan my own materials for what I'm going to deliver, but I don't get paid as a teacher because I don't have QTS. So that's why I decided to do this course. Get the degree, then get the PGCE or QTS, become a teacher (my dream) and with better pay!

What's the most valuable thing you will take away from your course?

I think what I'll take away is determination. If you have the determination and the effort, you can always achieve your dream. And if you're passionate about pursuing something in a career, it's never really too late. I mean, I'm a mature student and I'm still doing it with all the juggling, all the hardships in life. But when you get that qualification, it’s yours and nobody can take it away from you.

There's a module called Early Childhood Graduate Competencies. I find it really interesting because it's bringing theories, legislations, and everything into practice. It steers you in the right direction because you have a learning mentor in your placement, which is required as part of the course. They help you inform practice and learn a little bit about the teaching elements, the ups and the downs, and with the competencies that you are required to fill across the three years. It gives you that grounding that yes, you can do it, but with support rather than just getting a qualification, doing your PGCE and then, boom, you’re into teaching and you haven't got a clue. That module has been really, really useful.

Since I'm working, my work counts as the placement. You just talk to your line manager and say “This is a course I'm doing, this is what I'm required to do.” So then you have your student hat on one day a week or however many hours the course requires, and then the other bit you just do as a colleague who's working. And because you're paid to do the job anyway it's like you're getting two things at the same time. You're being mentored and you're being paid at the same time you're getting your qualification. For people that don't have it as a job, the module leader helps them write a letter and communicate to people. I know there are some students who have been helped to find mentors.

Which other aspects of your course have helped your career development, and why?

The study skills. Last trimester I organised and booked one, and they're great if you if you're struggling with something - things like referencing, because that's always a really big thing. You book appointments with people and then they talk to you online. If there are any specific elements you want in terms of your essay, there are so many materials there you can do - things like mind maps and structuring your assignments.

That's been really helpful because when I went to school, the structure was so different. We didn’t have the idea of “I’m going to write an essay, this is how I'm going to plan it. This is going to be my intro. This is going to be my main body. This is going to be my conclusion.” We would just be told “OK, write a story about XYZ and then the teacher will give you 45 minutes to complete it.” But that doesn't really teach you how to actually plan things through, or what you can edit.

Violet Ongele in a garden

What projects are you currently working on?

I've got two main ones from my module Early Years Policy, Practice and Professionalism. We are creating an e-portfolio. You choose a policy within your setting - it could be behaviour safeguarding, or any kind of policy within practice. Then you look for a method of enquiry, annotate what the policy is saying and formulate some questions for your enquiry to feed through your whole reflection on how that policy is being implemented in practice.

The other one is quite a sensitive topic because it's all about safeguarding children. I'm looking at looked-after children and young people. The assignment is a sensitive topic- reading through the adverse childhood experiences, and the safeguarding procedures. The main thing is understanding how to respond, help and protect children when a disclosure is made. We're required to write a 4000-word essay, the topic is broad, and I don't know how I'm going to make it concise but still cover all the learning outcomes -legislations, the support services available for them, and then I've got to critique the services too! It's just really heart breaking that such young people are/have gone through such trauma.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say that life has a way of working out, and if you choose a path it’s not set in stone. If you want to change your career, you can always change.

My young-self thought “If I don't study law, I will not succeed in life at all.” My dad used to work with a group of advocates. He would talk about how everyone has got a right, so I just grew up thinking I should study law because that way I can help other people. Maybe I'll pursue it one day, but on the children's side of things, not adults.

It's nice to have goals but, at the same time, things happen for a reason. Sometimes you start on one journey and then you end up somewhere else, which is even better. It might be a longer, winding way, but you still get there. So I’d tell myself not to worry. Just be happy, enjoy life, and I will succeed.

What is your favourite thing about studying in Chelmsford, and what did you discover about it that you didn’t know before?

I think my favourite thing is the opportunities to take part in the different workshops that they have on campus. They have all kinds of things, like employability. Last year they had people coming in to talk about career development and different careers prospects. They had different employers who ran workshops to talk about all the different things that they do. It just opens up really huge opportunities for people.

This week and last week they've been upcycling clothes, where you just get a bag of clothes for £20, and some of them are vintage clothes. They look so cool!

But one of the things that I really didn't know about is the fact that when you get a book from the ARU library, you can have it for a whole year. Unless of course it's on high demand. And you can even have 12 books in one go. I found that really cool. Even how the library is laid out is just so different to going to a normal library, with the different quiet space areas where you can just go and do your own studies.

Where Now?

BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies (Graduate Practitioner)

Keen to shape young children’s futures? Our Early Childhood Studies degree course in Chelmsford has a placement throughout to allow you to meet the Early Childhood Graduate Competencies.

Meet Mitzi

Mitzi Harris graduated with a First from our BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies in 2023 and has just started working as Admissions and Conversion Co-ordinator at ARU. She is also a freelance writer and self-published children’s author.

Meet Kate

Kate Larsson graduated from our BA Montessori Early Childhood Studies in 2023 as a mature student, and has since been requested to facilitate a workshop at the Montessori Europe Congress in Gdansk as well as recently taking on a new role as the Manager of a thriving Montessori Nursery & Pre-school in Cambridgeshire.