Time’s up in the village

4 09 2008

With finishing this post I have now written 23,559 words about my trip on here so far; that is an awful lot of typing!  I should have kept a note of how many hours it has taken to do as well!

my house

my house

 

the living area, and my host mother slept there

the living area, and my host mother slept there

one side of my room (I was about to leave, hence the bags)

one side of my room (I was about to leave, hence the bags)

other side of my room!

other side of my room!

no explanation needed!

no explanation needed!

I got worried that my recent couple of posts would make it seem as though I was not having a good time/sounded moany/brought me across in a bad light!  I may have been frustrated with the teachers but that was because for me it is always about the kids, especially there, and I was just frustrated for them because they deserved so much more. 

There was also this underlying anger with the whole unjust situation across the globe.  I cannot get my head around the fact that we have so much and just because of where they are born most people have little or nothing.  I know from living there that there are lots of good things about their lives like family life, less stress on work, growing their own food, religion, if thats your thing, support structures etc and that I definately learned how to relax more while there!  If these areas were to get electricity and t.v’s etc etc then they would end up just like us probably.  Wilford, from the link office already commented that he thought children in towns are not active enough as they are too busy watching TV and playing video games which was not something I expected to hear.  Why, though, should they not get the same access to education that we get.  They do not even need all the fancy whiteboards etc, just well trained teachers who are dedicated to teaching and recognise that they are the most important resource in the class! 

Anyway, rant over for now, those are issues that go so deep and if they have not been solved by now I do not see how they are going to be now, especially with global warming etc.  I loved every minute of my time in Malawi and would do it all over again without hesitation.  Indeed, putting the photos in this post I got slightly emotional looking at everyone that I fully intend to see next year, but even though I say now that I am going again who knows really what is going to happen.  I will be doing my utmost to make sure I go though!

Friday 18th July

Today was my last day at school and I had pre-warned the kids that I would cry!  I was the first person there at 7.00am and when Mr Kalivute came he told me the kids would come very late as it was the last day, for reasons which I could not fathom.  Patrick and Philipo were first there but even that was not until 7.30am.  They helped me put up stuff on the walls like the phonics info and reflective questions for St6 and 7.

Patrick and Philipo on the last day

Patrick and Philipo on the last day

 

 

some of the work we put up

some of the work we put up

We basically hung around until 9am so I just played with the kids as they turned up and talked to the older ones.  The boys also finished off my mat so they spent yet more time on that!  I managed to get St6 and 7 together and take class photos and then write their names in the order they were standing so the pupils in p.7 in my school could match the letters to the faces.  They really wanted to be smart and were swapping over school shirts with each other, so the photos do look good!

waiting!

waiting!

St 6

St 6

St 7

St 7

We were then having a ceremony which was a mix for me leaving and the end of term.  We had invited all of the parents and School Management Committee, PTA and village chiefs so I could ‘gee them up’ basically and encourage timekeeping and involvement and payment for volunteers!  Quite a lot of the committe people etc came and quite a few mums came and just sat on the grass (whereas the males got the seats).

 

most of the kids as we started!

most of the kids as we started!

We had a welcome speech and a prayer, then some scottish dancing which I had to join in with.  Funnily enough the boys had done so well all week and then got totally confused today and the girls who had been so shy did really well today!  Then we did the hokey cokey which had the older ones doubled over in laughter and tears, I certainly would not be quick to lead that at home!  I even had to do it twice – first with St1 and 2 and then St3 and 4.  The kids then did their Malawian dancing which some of the mums joined in with and then demonstrated how to use the parachute.

doing the dashing white seargent

doing the dashing white seargent

doing the hockey cockey

doing the hockey cockey

the boys drumming for the dancing

the boys drumming for the dancing

We had a little sports event after that as I had brought out medals  and we had a race for boys and girls from each class, which got progressively longer as they got bigger.  It was a hoot again as there was lots of cheating involved by not going the full way round, although I am not sure if it was deliberate or not.  Interestingly, once the first few came through the rest just gave up and did not finish the race which I do not think would really happen here.  We then had a nice medal presentation ceremony.  The first girls tried to bend down and be on their knees to receive their medals from me and I had to put a quick stop to that!

someone winning their race

someone winning their race

 

giving out the medals

giving out the medals

Mr Kalivute and Mme Gwengwe did a really good job of organising that and the whole morning really which I think just reinforced the hard work that they do for the school.

Then we had the choir singing a song that Mme Gwengwe had written and the St 1’s sang a song which was a bit of a tearjerker!  Then came the speeches; with someone from the SMC first, then one of the chief’s and some others.  I was presented with raw eggs (!?), 2 brushes, a beautiful ceramic bowl, a nsima dish, a stool from the staff and the mat from the children.  Typically, just like we would do, they got three of the cutest St1 pupils to present me with the mat!

getting presented with gifts

getting presented with gifts

So I had been crying since they first started making the speeches and giving me the gifts as I was not expecting that at all but the St1’s definately got me the most – one of them was the boy in photo with the blazer on who I thought was so cute and had spent a lot of time by my side that last week!

being presented with the mat by St1

being presented with the mat by St1

Then it was my turn.  I had asked Mme Gwengwe in secret to translate the first paragraph of what I was going to say into Chichewa and they really appreciated it and I got a big round of applause from the kids!  This was; 

“Thank you very much for coming to the school this morning.  I have loved working in the school and living in the village and I am very sad that I am leaving tomorrow.  Everyone in the village, but especially the learners, have been amazing.  Thank you for making my stay so special, I will never forget my time here.”

I also got my few bits across that I mentioned earlier but mostly I just praised the kids so much and said how much I would miss them.  I did praise the hard work of the staff too!

trying to make my speech

trying to make my speech

I then showed them everything I was leaving with them which included; the books, parachutes, football and pump, 2 rounders sets, posters, hundreds of pencils, rubbers, sharpeners, crayons and pens as well as lots of other stuff.  I also had a lot of things made by my pupils such as number fans, hundred squares and number and alphabet lines.

The HT spoke next and then it was the announcement of test results.  I felt bad for the ones who had not done well enough to be mentioned but it was nice for the ones who had done well to be brought out in front of everyone and praised.  What they could have done with was praise for some other things as well and I did plant the seed of a Star of the Week type idea but I don’t know if they will take it up!  It was over very abruptly and I was glad I had added in in my part that I would like any of the kids to come and play tomorrow until it was time for my to go, although of course I could not tell them when that would be!

the kids who had done well in tests

the kids who had done well in tests

I asked Mr Kalivute to round up the boys who had made the mat for me and I gave them a nice pen each which they were very chuffed about.  I then eventually got the teachers rounded up and I gave them gifts each which included a pencil case full of goodies each,  a tie for Mr Kalivute as deputy head and cuff links (SLC gift) for the head teacher.  Swapped phone numbers with everyone that had phones and I will text them and maybe try to phone at some point.  I do not expect them to have the money to text me back really.

with all but one of the teachers

with all but one of the teachers

I had arranged a tea party for 2pm for my family, Mme Gwengwe, Mr Kaunda, Lameck and Patrick as they were the people who supported me the most outwith school.  Of course it did not happen at that time as people were not there so I went out to the school with some balloons.  As I think I said before they kept wanting to deflate them and keep them so sharing was a problem!

When we did have the tea party it was really funny as everyone went really shy and quiet!  I had tablet, macaroon, shortbread, oatcakes and honey and galaxy hot chocolate.  There was absolutely loads and I was sure it would not get finished but it certainly did.  I was embaressed by the amount of rubbish I made from all of the packaging, it was absolutely shocking.

I gave out some gifts after: patrick, Jaylois, Chiambia and Nowa got about three things each like bouncy balls, colouring book, pens, etc and I gave Mercy, the daughter, a necklace and tea towel and the mum a scarf and tea towel.  I gave Mme Gwengwe a couple of things and to Lameck I gave a nice pen and the autobiography I had just been given of Adese Bikele because I really wanted to give him something to do with running and it was new and I had read it while I was there and talked to Lameck about it.  I was given it as a gift from someone in school before I left, which was extremely thoughtful of this person and I was very touched, but I am sure she would not mind me leaving it for that reason.  I am going to replace it so I still have a copy!  I also gave Chiambi a beanie hat with my school logo on it and he was so pleased, it was just lovely.  I did not see it off his head again before I left.  I think he was especially pleased because Jaylois had one and now he was the same as his brother!

Chiambi with his Castlefield beanie!

Chiambi with his Castlefield beanie!

I then went back to the school as there were kids waiting at the entance to the compound for me.  I had the bubbles out with me and we just sat at the school and played with those and tried to talk – it was a lot of the infants and juniors so as can be imagined it was extremely limited and they were trying to teach me Chichewa.  When I left I was getting lots of hugs and handshakes as some kids obviously realised this would be the last time they saw me – one of those moments you just could’t buy!

I ended up out and about in the village for quite a while as I went with Mr Kaunda to give presents like tea towels, ties etc to the village chief, PTA chair and SMC chair.  I also tried to buy batteries for my camera at the shop but they only worked for about 5 seconds each!  I had gone through 20 batteries in my time just in the village – it was hard as everytime you took a photo the kids wanted to see it and that is what killed the batteries.

When I got back Mme Gwengwe had translated letters of thanks from the mum, daughter, Jaylosi and Chiambi.  She said the mum had been very upset and that even Lameck was crying.  It was Chiambi’s note which really got me as he is only 10 but it was so nice.  I was really, really fond of him and wished I could have talked more to him.  I instinctively gave him a hug, which as I said is not the done thing, but he was so chuffed and then got me to give one to Nowa too.  It struck me that once kids were past walking stage I rarely saw much affection between adults and children which I found quite sad.

I was also given a card for me from Mme Gwengwe and she had written one to my mum and to the primary one teacher in my school as well as buying her a chitenji as she had been so interested to hear about her and chuffed that I said they were doing some of the same stuff.  Lameck had written them to my husband and my dad.  They were lovely, although if they were written here you would be totally laughed at.  It was interesting to see how these people saw me.  I will write out the ones I can below but I don’t have my mum and dad’s on me.  They had even had the cards made especially, with a boat and travelling for me, lady and a church for my mum, guy at a piano for my dad and a guy and a car for my husband.  (Mum’s a minister, Dad plays the piano, guess it was too hard to make a card for an accountant! and my husband is a driving instructor).

We were later tonight to eat and I played a bit of snap but then it was obvious they were going to to bed so I did too.  I did that stupid female thing, or is it just me!, of putting my ipod on (the first time I had used it for myself) and reading through all of the notes and letters again and looking at photos which made me really upset at the thought of going.  Talk about sadistic behaviour!

On the Saturday I woke up at 4.30am and was upset in bed until I got up.  I washed and had breakfast and was just packing up a couple of last bits when I heard voices and went out and it was Philipo and some of the other boys already there to see me at 7.00am.  The headteacher also turned up and said that unfortunately he could not stay until I left as he had a funeral to go to.  Mr Kalivute turned up for a bit and said he would be back but he never did come back in time and I did not actually get to say bye to him.  However I would see them next week at the in-service training.

More kids turned up shortly but it was all a bit flat actually as it felt like we were just waiting and waiting.  I fully expected it to be the afternoon before they turned up.  We played with the remaining bubbles and balloons and I did things like have a balloon race game and played ladders.  If Mr Kalivute had been about I was going to ask for the football so we could have a game but I never saw him again.  I brought my ipod out and the speakers and we listened to a lot of music which the older boys liked, especially the dance stuff and I kept having to try and find new ones.

I was fed about 3 times before link arrived which I totally did not need as I was not exactly feeling hungry anyway.  Then they turned up at 10am, I was totally shocked and of course the kids had heard the truck long before me and just turned and stared at me.  I could feel my face just fall and the tears came right away as they did for Mme Gwengwe, my host mother and Lameck, who could not actually stay to say bye to me as he was so upset.

Roger, the returning GT from last year, Shiraz, who had been picked up first and Emmanuel, staff of link, were there and I just cried and cried so Shiraz started crying as I was so upset and I think she had only just recovered from her farewell.  She kept referring to me being upset the rest of the trip and I suspect I may have been the worst of all of us, but that is not unusual as anything to do with kids makes me cry and this was particularly difficult. 

saying goodbye to my host mother - thats the egg in the bowl!

saying goodbye to my host mother - thats the egg in the bowl!

I did not know what to do when they arrived, I thought it would be a tight schedule and started getting my stuff out of my room right away but was encouraged just to take my time and we had some photos and I got plenty of time to say bye.  Some of the kids I had been quite close to were there but there was no Chiambi or Patrick which I was really gutted about, especially Chiambi.  It was fine to hug the females that were there but I really wanted to give Philipo a hug and just couldn’t so it ended up being a shaking of hands and a pat on the arm!  I felt my goodbyes were over really quickly and when we went to pick up others they got longer but as Shiraz pointed out that was probably just as well for the state of me.  I got given scrambled/fried egg by my host mother to go away with but there was no way I could eat it so Emmanuel had to eat it as I sobbed in the back of truck!

 

most of the people that were there to say bye to me when link arrived

most of the people that were there to say bye to me when link arrived

Caro,

Have a nice journey.  May God be with you in all your daily activities.  Greets your husband, mum and dad not forgetting your brother, his wife and your nephew.  We will miss your presence. 

Friend, Verina Gwengwe

Neal,

We were glad to stay with your humble wife Caro.  We have been influenced from her gentle manners which is like the silent influence of light which gives colour to all nature and it is far more powerful than loudness of force and far more fruitful.  She was a friend to everyone, whether an adult or child.  Gwengwe and its surrounding villages will not forget her.  On behalf of Gwengwe village, I wish you all the best in your daily undertakings. 

I am, your friend, Lameck Gwengwe

My daughter Caro,

Im thanking you very much for being staying at my home but Im sad because you’re leaving this place.  I will feel so lonely, Nowa used to play with you, Nowa will be troubled because your presence will be missed.  May god bless you wherever you go.  With lots of love Mum, Mnaula July

Caroline,

Thank you very much for what you have done to me.  I don’t have any words to say, only that we will miss you presence, may god be with you in all of your journeys.  Yours Jayloisi

Caroline,

May almighty lord be with you all the time, have a nice journey.  Greeets everyone.  Hope we shall meet again next time if God allows.  Yours Chiambi

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Frustrating start to the day, but it ended up a highlight!

2 09 2008

Thursday 17th July

Again I sneaked a bit of marmite for my bread today – it felt like such a treat!  The kids were really late today and we did not get started for ages.  I found today frustrating because the head teacher had been called away to fill in some forms (why did someone, like the PEA, not come round with them!) and would be away all day and the teachers, although definately not the pupils, were in holiday mode and really winding down.  This was hard for me as I knew this would be the last teaching day and there was still so much I wanted to do.  I found myself being quite tetchy with the teachers and I know this was wrong, and knew it at the time!, but our time was so short we wanted to make the most of it.  They did not seem to notice or pay any attention to it if they did though.  I was glad at the weeked when I found out that most of us had felt like that and had been in the same sort of mood as I had felt really bad about it.

I kept having to tell myself that they get paid a pittance etc and that if visitors came to use at the end of term with new things to try out and do we would have told them where to go probably, whether politely or not I am not sure!

I did some more activities with St 1 and 2 first again and looked in a few times on St 6 and 7.  I had asked the deputy if they could reply to the letters that the p.6 class had written to them so they were thrilled to be doing that and spent a long time on it.  I, mistakenly I think now, had not been sure how much english they would be able to write and so we gave a few starters for them like name, age, family members, what they liked in and out of school and so they just ended up using those and they probably could have added more of their own.  I am sure they will be writing again though!  I have loved working with these 2 classes as they got more and more confident about trying their english, the boys hung out with me in the afternoons, they loved all the activities and trying out things like the dancing and the teacher being so enthusiastic made such a difference too.

St 1 and 2 drawing letters on each others backs

St 1 and 2 drawing letters on each others backs

 

St 6 and 7 pupils writing letters to pupils here

St 6 and 7 pupils writing letters to pupils here

I then went into St 3-5 which because the HT was away were being split between the St 3 and St 4 teachers, the St4 teacher actually being there today was amazing!  It seeemed though that unless I was actually in the room there was no work being done.  And this was not that there was work there and the children were not doing it, it was that they had not even been given any work and the teacher was away doing whatever else they liked.  I ended up getting so annoyed that I went to clear out the two cupboards in the school as they had been horrifying me!  One was filled with rubbish really and was easy to clear out and sort.  The other was full of textbooks and they were in an awful state.  The photograph is not even from when I began as I did not think to take the photo till later.

Before
Before
and after!

and after!

I could not believe they could let textbooks get in that mess and yet they were complaining about not having certain ones etc.  They were mostly infant books and some junior, as everyone expcept the infants tends to take their books home with them.  Even if they were not being used anymore it was still an awful way to leave books and I was going to be leaving a lot of gifts etc behind so did not want them to end up the same way – hence me taking a photo of it tidy!  I have sent a copy of both photos back to the school, as well as many, many nicer ones, to encourage them to keep it tidy.   I did warm them I was going to do that!

One of the things I was going to be leaving was 50 story books with 10 different stories in Chichewa for the pupils.  These are beautifully illustrated and brand new and I did not want them ending up the same way!  It was the children at Castlefield who raised the money for these and for the parachute.  I then, in Dedza, bought a further 20 in English so they could have the same books in both languages.

Virsula the Giant

Virsula the Giant

I really wanted it to be demonstrated how to look after the books and for the children to see them and know about them so that hopefully they would not just stay in the cupboard so I decided to disrupt lessons – well if you could have called it that anyway – and ask to do some paired reading!

I took the books and explained this concept to the deputy head who as usual was very excited and launched into a big explanation to St6 and 7 about how, with prompting from me, to look after the books and how they should be read to younger ones.  They were very excited!

Mr Kalivute explaining about the books

Mr Kalivute explaining about the books

We had break and then brought all the children who were left into the St1 classroom and explained what we were going to do, rather unfortuntely the infants had already gone home but that was probably enough children for the first time anyway.  Mr Kalivute spent ages explaining how to look after them etc again but I had to close my eyes when then seniors came to pick a book as they were all grabbing and pulling them as they were so excited.  They quickly picked kids to read to and went outside.  Luckily the coldness of this week was going and it was nice and sunny.  I expressly told all of the teachers I wanted them to be involved and go round and see what the pupils were doing and listening in.  So no wandering off for them and to be fair they didn’t as they were really interested too.  I had suggested maybe about 20 mins but it lasted an hour as they were all so interested in the stories and pictures and they just kept swapping the books around. 

He is following the words with his finger!

He is using his finger to follow the words!

 The older ones were amazing; they used their finger to follow the words for the younger ones, spoke with expression, asked questions about the pictures and got the younger ones to repeat bits back to them.  Some of this we had told them about but I am sure they used their fingers instinctively. 

I love the smiles in this photo

I love the smiles in this photo

This whole activity made me feel so much better about this last day of teaching as I think everyone learned so much and the books are, I hope, such a useful gift that I am leaving them.  Some of the pupils actually taught some of the teachers a couple of things I think!  Even better was that then Mr Kalivute brought them all back together and was asking open questions about the stories to all of the children.  I really could have hugged him as I was so pleased with what he was doing, everyday, but that is so not the done thing in Malawi, certainly not between opposite sexes.   When asked about personal and professional highlights I now found it easy to pick – going running with all of the children was definetely my personal highlight and my professional one was the paired reading as it really perked me up and had a little of everything in it.  I wrote a case study about these for the LINK Malawi office.

Check out the pictures, they will never have seen books like this!

Check out the pictures, they will never have seen books like this!

I took St 5, 6 and 7 off to do some more dancing while the teachers did the second part of the testing with the St3.  They were supposed to do it yesterday but most of them were part of the World Vision visit and did not want to leave the various queues which was fair enough really, it was just bad planning that we did not know about that beforehand and could have planned different days.  We had just got them to do it straightaway and not go home for lunch first as I did not think it was going to take that long but, and this really angered me, the teachers were totally unprepared for it and kept the children waiting for ages while the faffed (there is no better word) about not even trying very hard to get ready.  So not only did they keep the children waiting about an hour before starting but they also had had no lunch.  That would just not be done here at all but they had no concept that the children mattered!  They would not even have thanked them for staying back if I had not insisted on them saying it about three times from me and there was no praise.  I was feeling doubly bad as it was explained that it was really because of me being there that this was being done and I did not want them to think I was making them stay back etc!  It is not part of their culture to thank children ect for that kind of thing but I just thought it was bad manners.  They were probably also worried about what the results were going to show.  The maths results were a lot better than the Chichewa marks but this had been expected and is really the same in all tests nationwide.  It only reinforces the fact that it is reading that is more of a problem.  I gave the children biscuits that I had bought for them to keep them going and then a balloon each as a reward.

The boys who did a lot of the dancing with me, not quite sure why they had their hands in my hair!
The boys who did a lot of the dancing with me, not quite sure why they had their hands in my hair!

Mr Balaka was there for some of the afternoon and I took the opportunity to ask him what he thought would most improve schools in his zone and he said more teachers houses as the teachers do not want to come and live in rural areas but if there is a teachers house it does encourage them to come.  He would like several schools in his zone to move to having eight standards including Gwengwe, but my school would definetely need another teachers house for this as you could not add on another class without having another qualified teacher there.  There are enough volunteer teachers already.  Hence why I would like to raise money for another teacher’s house in my village as this confirmed what the pupils had said the day before about wanting more teachers.

We had a staff meeting after the testing and I softened them up with fanta and scottish food like shortbread, macaroon and tablet.   I did maybe come across quite harshly at this point but I was really trying to get the message across about timekeeping – how can you expect the children to come on time if you do not – and staying in the class, which I actually found to worse in this school than the timekeeping, especially after what I heard from some other people when we all met up again!  Other than that we went through everything we had achieved since I got here, revised some things like thinking skills and questioning and talked about how they would carry things on.  I know I did most of the talking here and that was totally wrong but I was so aware of time marching on and wanting to get through things but I really should have let them have more discussion time.  That was bad modelling of a staff meeting!

Things we did while I was there

Things we did while I was there

I had been adament that I would have to go and use my phone afterwards as I wanted to see if I had a message yet about when I would be picked up by link on Saturday so I could tell the pupils and it was also my wedding anniversary so I had thought I had better give a call home!  Of course we got all the way up the hill before I realised that the batteries on both of my phones were dead.  I knew one had been about to go but I had just had the other recharged in Mayani on Tuesday so that should have been fine.  I had played some of the boys some music on it though and must have left it on so there was nothing!  That was me, I knew I was in trouble when I got home!  In the immediate future I was more worried about not getting the message from Link as I had no clue when they would come and really restricted what I could do on the Saturday.  The boys tried to come up with solutions of someone going to Mayani in the morning to get it charged but I did not want to waste their time doing that and just left it.

gooli-wan-gooli or something like that.  Part of their witchcraft traditions.

gooli-wan-gooli or something like that. Part of their witchcraft traditions.

When we got back I went to do some work in the classroom but a couple of the boys came and called me down to the bottom of the hill at the back of the school.  I was totally mystified as to what I was to see but it was a large group of the St6 and 7 boys making me my mat out of bamboo that the children had brought in the materials for.  I had wondered why Philipo had a knife with him to school that would have been a dangerous weapon in a ned’s hands in Glasgow.  And probably similar has been seen in schools here!

Some of the boys who made the mat

Some of the boys who made the mat

I stood for ages watching them, really touched at how much effort they were putting into this and how much time it was going to take them.  They ended up bringing me down a desk and chair and I brought down my work (they told me to run and be quick while I was doing this as they did not want me to miss anything!) and I did some work while they worked and we had an awful lot of amusing, if stilted, conversations. Some of the younger kids came down as well when they realised I was there and the bigger ones tried to chase them away until they realised that I did not mind them being there and they were practically cuddling up to me on the chair – no wonder as it was getting cold as it was quite late in the afternoon!  I was there for 2 hours and they had started before that and continued with detailing it the next day, I was about in tears at the time and effort they put in and it really was from here on in that I was an emotional wreck about leaving.

using that sharp knife!

using that sharp knife!

 

Some of the boys at the end of the afternoon

Some of the boys at the end of the afternoon

 

One of the other global teachers I was with, and who was in the same zone as me, started a blog shortly before we left for Malawi.  Check it out at http://clarecaley.edublogs.org/