School at Sea

Karin Kitshoff, Grade 4 & 5 Teacher, creating an experiment for her class.

: the onboard education for crew children.

At Mercy Ships, we love to learn – and we love to teach. In fact, education is a part of our DNA in many ways. From mentoring programmes in the operating theatre to crew children’s classrooms in the ‘Academy’ onboard, you can find education valued in all corners of our ships – and beyond.

Academy students wave their flags as the Africa Mercy arrives into the Port of Dakar.

On land, we run training programmes throughout a typical field service designed to equip local healthcare professionals with the skills to strengthen their own healthcare systems and beyond. But here’s a look inside some of the ways our crew children are learning onboard a Mercy Ship.

An Inside Look at the Academy Onboard Our Hospital Ships

Take a peek inside one of the most unique schools in the world. Combining a hospital and a ship is already a radically unusual combination. Add a school to the mix, and you’ve truly got a one-of-a-kind learning environment.

Did you know that we currently have two schools – one onboard each of our ships? The Global Mercy Academy and Africa Mercy Academy will share many similarities, but will each function as their own school, with a principal and a roster of volunteer teachers leading each grade.

Aucklander Karin Kitshoff, Grade 4 and 5 Teacher, with her students.

The Mercy Ships Academy began in 1979 as a way to provide a quality Christian education to the children of the volunteers onboard the ship. As parents work to provide hope and healing to our patients onboard, the children are able to pursue their education in a structured classroom environment.  “Day one of Mercy Ships there was an Academy, because day one, there were families,” says Nikki Aldum, Academy Director. And from Day One, Kiwi teachers have played a vital role in the international education of the children onboard.

As a fully accredited for preschool to high school graduation, the Academy provides an exceptional international education. But it also provides so much more. Where else in the world might you find students playing soccer on a ship dock during P.E. class, befriending patients in the hospital wards during break times, or taking occasional fun field trips in a life raft?

Of course, running a school onboard wouldn’t be possible without our teachers. Each teacher volunteers for at least a full school year, and many often stay longer. “Teaching in the Academy is a truly unique experience. I love having a classroom of four students from four different continents. Having only four students helps me to really focus on the gifts and needs of each of my kids, and having students from all over the world allows us to learn so much from each other and grow in incredible ways together,” said Beth Kirchner, volunteer kindergarten and Grade 1 teacher.

maritime, medical and general volunteer roles with Mercy Ships