School Daze

 I forgot to tell you about all the animals I saw on the way in yesterday from the gate to the housing.  Four kinds of antelope, wart hogs and zebras.  I haven’t seen any of the big guys yet, but the other volunteer who arrived with me yesterday went on the lion “hunt” this morning and they saw baby giraffes and got chased by a bull elephant.

The monkeys were harassing the volunteer staff this morning when we got up.   I was scheduled to go to the school and do some work.  With the transportation problems, no one could take me until 10 and I had to leave at 12, so a short work day.  Can’t say I mind too much as it’s about 90 here right now, and it’s still winter.

I had a conference with the principal, and she called all the teachers for a meeting to discuss what to do with me.  They decided on putting me with a grade three class, and so I went with the teacher to her classroom.  She shares what was the meeting hall with a grade four class at the other end and they have their own teacher.

There are 19 children in her class, and 7 desks.  The desks are the old country school variety that are meant for 2 students, but it’s still very inadequate.  There is a small piece of blackboard set on a cinder block at the front of the classroom.  There is one work book per subject, per class.  The teachers use the workbooks for their lessons and the children copy into their exercise books.

Teaching and learning is a very different experience here.  The children learn by rote, and everything is a group effort.  If you ask a question, everyone answers in unison and it’s very difficult to tell what each individual student knows – or not.  And very difficult, and it seems, embarrassing in this culture, to try and get one student to answer.

The teachers, of course, are the products of an even poorer educational system, and it’s very difficult to know where to interface with them, and how to be the most helpful.   However, they are absolutely dedicated to doing their best for the students and are mostly full of curiosity and do want to learn more themselves.

It is most difficult for the women teachers, since the concept of daycare is unknown, and they have to bring their own pre-school aged children to work with them.  If the child is fussy or disruptive, then a student is assigned to take the child out of the class and sit with them outside.  So of course that student is missing something too.  And the women teachers have to get home and take care of their households each night, so have less chance for advancement .

I’m praying for ideas about how to be truly helpful here, rather than just another disruptive influence, so y’all say a prayer for me too, OK.


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