Tuesday, February 1, 2011

School is back

Sorry that it is now over a week since I have posted, it is amazing how quickly the time is going already. We have of course since I last wrote had interesting times, power off, water off at different times. It has also been very hot. Even the locals have complained so that is when you know it must be hot. We are thoroughly enjoying building relationships within and without the village. My name is 'muzungu' or 'the wife', which is fortunate because Anne is a particularly difficult name for them to say. It is a bit like breast and bless can sound the same from a Ugandan I discovered today!

Some of last week was spent getting ready for school. I went along to Hope Community High School to find out what the 'hm' or Headmaster had planned for me. I discovered that the timetable was not ready and really what would be most convenient for me. Look out when I come back - I might have to decide what might suit! Anyway at this stage I will be teaching S1 Mathematics which is similar to Year 7 in some ways, certainly the first year of high school. The school is owned by Robert Kafiro who is a very good man. He has set it up to provide affordable education at a secondary level. The school has only been going for two years, in fact Rpn was there for the first day. It has very limited facilities - so much so that the 'photocopy machine' is actually an inkjet printer that also scans. For this year there will be four classes, and it aims to provide good Christian education to the students. Some of the students board at the school. This is a common thing as it is thought students can avoid the distractions of having to walk long distances to school, collecting water etc that make up normal village life. There is a lovely atmosphere at the school. I will be going from using the latest technology of Interactive whiteboards to chalkboards. The headmaster did advise me to get students to clean the board to save me getting dirty. I will endeavour to add photos soon - I didn't take the camera. Pictures will probably not even show you what it is like. If it wasn't for this school it is likely that quite a number of the students would not be able to go to secondary school. I am continually made aware that school fees are the thing that is so hard for families to find and it makes it almost impossible for many to send their children to school. So, there are students in their 20s doing high school because it was not possible before this.

Today I went to school to supervise exams. What a great way to start the year and make sure that students know the work from the year before! Another innovation that might have to be taken my classroom! However, the photocopy (?) had run out of ink and so some of the exams could not happen. So, I sat in the staff room and looked at the curriculum and tried to make out a bit of a plan. I of course asked "so how long is the term?'" "Well three months" but there is exams now for two weeks and then there is the election, and a couple of weeks at the end of term for assessment! It will be very interesting. I did get to see students today. The S4s were sitting a physics paper and then the other two levels were studying for exams. It was fun to interact with them. I am going to have to be careful though because all students have their hair shaved off and then the uniform for the top half is the same for boys and girls. So, care and caution will be the order of the day. I am looking forward to it. The students are also pleased to have a muzungu teacher. There are very interesting things in the curriculum. For those that would understand the national maths paper at the end of last year had the use of logarithmic tables on it! Now, I remember I used them 34 years ago. However, there were also questions that related to year 12 methods questions, and a lot of matrices that Victoria has only just brought back in at year 11 and 12 levels. Just another couple of things: the cook produced 'breakfast' for me; I actually declined because I had already eaten. Though might be something else to have instituted at school in Oz - after all some of my colleagues did bring their own and eat it at school. Also, sitting in the staff room minding my own business and what should walk in but a chook. Yes, we have everything here.

School is also back for the children of the village except what we would call the preschoolers. So, Monday morning bright and early (and I mean early) the children were all dressed up and ready to go off to school. No small feat to have 13 children fully dressed with their equipment to go off to school. Shoes had been polished the week before, pencils sharpened the night before, exercise books handed out and of course there were quite a few hours in mending the uniforms. So, at 7 o'clock on Monday morning Ron and I had the privilege of escorting the children to school. It is only a short walk down the road and was great fun. Just so that you know the lower levels at school finish at 12.30 and the children come home for lunch and stay. The higher levels the children come home for lunch (posho and beans normally - good energy given food and lots of vitamins in the beans) and then head back to school only to finish at 5.00. They then come home, do their jobs, eat supper and then do some homework. A big day for them. I did notice that they weren't ready quite so early this morning! That might also had something to do with the fact that there was thunderstorms in the night.

Then, this afternoon I got a different sort of 'school' experience. I have been endeavouring to make it to the English class over the road at YWAM. I have been over a few times but not found the class. I mentioned this to someone and so it was made clear that it was on. I am not the teacher but thought it would be a good experience to go and find out how it is done and help in any way. So, over I go. I found one lady - she is part of the Women of Hope and someone I had thought I would like to get to know but realised very early on that she did not speak English at all. So, she was there and my extremely limited Lugandan and her almost as weak English. I soon realised we needed something so I ducked back and picked up Lugandan-English books that I have. They are mainly made for tourists but... Another couple of ladies came too. One who had a workbook. Then another arrived, I thought - I will do the right thing and said "You are welcome" - good work Anne, nice English/African welcome. Oops - this was the teacher! Anyway, I had a good afternoon with a couple of ladies. One who does well with English but would like financial support and any sort of listening ear. The other who was helping me learn some Lugandan and hopefully I helped her learn some English. I look forward to building this relationship further. It will be hard but I did get to learn that her father died after P2 and her mother after P4. She has four children and thinks that the children will be able to help her with her English. Certainly I think the method we used may not be conventional but it was working. One thing I notice with people here. They do not expect others to do the work for them, no spoon feeding. If I want to learn English then it may mean rewriting a lot of stuff and a big struggle but I am willing. The problem is that the teacher can be slack in this situation. I am not getting good vibes about a lot of teachers. I have found a lot of rote learning happening without understanding. For example the children here will happily spend time copying the words from a book without understanding or knowing anything they are writing. If you are working then it will help. Or, "what did you learn at school?". Answer: "7 + 7 = 14". Reply: "oh, so what is 7 + 8?" "I don't know." Some challenges ahead...

So, I will be going in to the local primary school tomorrow - checked that it would be ok today. This will mean that I can learn what the children need to know, how they are taught and hopefully it will help us help them. We have already got Anita on to the task of providing us with the list of most common words. Any extra suggestions .... very gratefully received.

Life is full, a great adventure, we would love the water to be back on but otherwise we are doing really well. I will try to add school photos to this post in the next few days.

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