Going to school!

7 08 2008

I was totally overwhelmed when I was dropped off as my host mother, her daughter and the Standard one teacher just totally hugged me whereas for everyone else that I saw being dropped, and as is more the norm, it was just handshakes all round.  I think they were just so relieved I had acctually arrived!  But unsurprisingly for me I found this quite emotional.

As it was getting dark I was told to bathe pretty much straightaway and although this is the word the teacher used, that was a fairly loose description.  I had a shelter made of bamboo – without a door- and inside my host mother would put a bowl of hot (very hot) water, a bowl of cold water and a plastic cup.  And that was a luxury getting a cup; they usually just use their hands.  None of my family, or most people in the village, have long hair though!

The bamboo structure was my washing area

The bamboo structure was my washing area

It was potatoes for dinner, which I got a lot and in beginning I ate first and then the family ate what I left.  I found this a bit awkward.

I was right and my family did not speak english although Mme Gwengwe, the St1 teacher was there to translate at first.  She ended up staying the night which I thought was great that evening but not at 4.30am when her and my host mother woke up and put the radio on!

I never did work out the relationships in my family properly.  In my house there was my host mother, who was actually really the grandmother, and her four year old grandson Nowa.   In the other house in the compound there was my host mother’s daughter Mercy, who had the four year old boy and a baby girl of about 10 months.  She had a husband who I only met once as he worked in the town all week and I think was very shy.

Then there was a teenage boy Jaylois,  who I thought I had been told was the host mother’s son. However three days before I left my host mother’s sister turned up and I was told she was his mum!  Then there was a ten year old boy Chiamia, who I loved, and I thought he was also her son.  (Although at first I thought he was an orphan working for them as he seemed to do so much of the work.)  When I tried to ask when Jaylois’s mum turned up I was told Jaylois and Chiamia had the same dad but not the same mum!  So really don’t know how all of that worked!

Chiambia

Chiambia

I got up at 6am, which was loads of time as school started at 7.15am and I lived right beside the school.  In fact it was very strange for me to have so much time to relax and get ready in the mornings as usually I am up and out of the house in nearly 15 mins to be at school also for 7.15am but with a more considerable journey to do! It was nice and one of the things I would like to be able to keep up but there is just no way that is going to happen!

I had to bathe again and I had to do this every morning but although it was very hot during the day, first thing in the morning was still quite cold so it wasn’t that pleasant!  I got given nsima for breakfast, which is maize mixed with hot water.  You can make it different consistencies and for breakfast it was quite like semolina and quite pleasant

Mme Gwengwe took me to school and most of the teachers were there on time today!  From 7.15 – 7.30 is assembly and then classes are supposed to from 7.30 – 11 for infants, to 12 for juniors and 1 for seniors with two short breaks.  The pupils sang a song they had made up for me and then as I was asked to do many a time, I had to make a speech which deputy HT translated.

The teachers were desperate for me to go in and observe them and so this morning I went to 1, 3, 4 and 6.  I also got shown around by the head teacher and had a long conversation with him and then asked to see various documents and records of theirs to help me see what I should be doing with them.  The School Improvement Plan was the most useful for this as it had been written in February but nothing was completed within it so there was plenty to be going on with!

Mme Gwengwe in St1

Mme Gwengwe in St1

The teacher in St1, Mme Gwengwe, was a qualified teacher, the teachers in St2, 3 and 4 were all volunteer teachers which means they are paid very little and have had no training, the HT (who had only been there 3 weeks) taught in St5, the deputy HT taught in St 6 and all of these teachers were supposed to share teaching St7.  This meant they had to leave their own classes with work to go and teach St7.  I only saw the St4 teacher going in once and the St6 teacher went in quite a lot.  The St1 and St6 teachers were very good and I had a lot of respect for them as for the most part they seemed very committed and stayed with their classes most of the time.  They were also desperate to learn from me and took on board everything I suggested.  I was never very sure what to make of the HT.  It was his first post and he had been there such a short time  but he did seem to leave his class a lot and had none of the impact I would expect from an HT.  He too though was enthusiastic about everything I suggested and could make a good impact if he continues to get support.

The volunteer teachers were a bit of a different matter and I had to keep constantly reminding myself that they have no training and are paid barely anything.  The standard of english of the teacher in St3 was very poor and certainly her teaching of english was barely worth doing as the children would be no further forward at the end of St3 as they had been at the start.  This I just found very upsetting for the children as they were so desperate to learn and for the fact that from St5 they are supposed to be solely taught in english which they would not be ready for.  Not that they would be ready anyway as this is a very tall order and one which needs to change from the top down.  It is hard enough for them to do english in common contexts never mind be expected to learn history, agriculture, social studies etc in english.  I explained to the teachers that children in Scotland would not understand some of the words I saw that they were expected to understand and that is in their first language.

In the afternoon Mme Gwengwe and my host mother took me to the shop and bought me a fanta, which I then got every day (I drink a fizzy drink once every couple of months, if that, at home!) and then shown the well and I had a go at collecting the water, although not carrying it at this point!  (LINK pay the family for food for me, which I guess they also used for the fanta!) When we went back to the house there were quite a few visitors so I got out the photos I had brought and that passed a long time.  I had taken some of my house, family, friends, Scotland, and a lot of running ones to show that it was okay to wear 3/4 length leggings to run in and to give an understanding of why I would want to do it there!

the village shop (or covered stall!)

the village shop (or covered stall!)

I got given food to eat at 4 which I thought was dinner and was nsima and beans.  The nsima this time was cooked to a firmer consistency and you pick off a bit with your hands, make it into a ball with a groove in it and then use that to scoop up the beans, or whichever other relish it is, to eat it with.

getting used to eating with my hands

getting used to eating with my hands

 

nsima and beans (also the only time I got fruit)

nsima and beans (also the only time I got fruit)

We then went to the school and church (the church was also right beside the school and was in the process of being built.  It was sometimes used as a classroom so that St2 did not have to be outside.)  to listen to the children’s choir and women’s choir practising.  I had a choked up moment here as I was introduced to a very young girl with HIV.  I was then shown about the village a bit as well!

dancing with the women's choir

dancing with the women's choir

At 6 though I was then given more food – I had thought the food at four had been dinner but no this was!  Again nsima with rice and green veg this time.  I was getting worried by this point as that was now 4 meals and 2 snacks I had been given in one day!

I was in bed for 7.15pm which was quite late really for how the rest of the stay would be!  I did not mind going to my room at this point though it meant whoever was translating for me could go home, I got a bit of time to do my diary etc as this was the only point in the day I was by myself, and the family themselves went to bed early too anyway.

I did not think I would spend so long on one day – if I am not careful I will still be writing this by the time I go next year!  And everyone will have given up reading it as it will be so boring as too long!

Advertisements