Published: June 21st 2012June 21st 2012
I was so disappointed when I published our blog from yesterday. We have intermittent internet and Syd and I had written for over an hour to give you a taste of our first day experiences – the writing was brilliant (!) and nothing had been saved except the beginning of the first paragraph.Arg!
Our M-F routine is up at 6:00 (OK, 6:30 for Syd), have breakfast(usually eggs, fruit, oatmeal and juice) and be on the vans at 7:30 as we head out to our assignments . Often we are awakened earlier by the sounds of roosters, dogs barking and perhaps the Muslim call to prayer at 5:45. The main streets in Moshi are paved but the side streets are another matter altogether. I find that my Kathmandu experience prepared me well for much of life in Tanzania. The streets are narrow and deeply rutted, there are no sidewalks so people – either walking or on bikes or motorcycles are in the road and the cars dodge them. We see woman walking with loads of many varieties on their heads and babies tied to their backs. Yesterday morning we saw a man in a dumpster. This is sad in many ways. The dumpster was donated by a well-meaning group from Europe (we know this because “donated by …” is stenciled on the dumpster); however, there are no garbage trucks or even a dump here. So an overflowing dumpster sits with goats foraging alongside, today with a desperate man scavenging inside. Garbage is burned here or just left in the streets.
Step up was founded by Mama Kassema who inherited the house from her father-in-law. She lives in the back 2 rooms and turned the rest of the house into a nursery school. Public education in TZ doesn’t begin until 7 years of age. Mama Kassema is well educated, lived in Norway for 7 years and speaks beautiful English. She understands the benefits of an early start – schooling at her centers is predominately in English with enough Swahili so the kids can understand. The schools serve the poorest of the poor. The front room held about 25 kids, the middle room had 31 and the baby room (a small bedroom size) had 20 – each room with one teacher and little in the way of supplies. When I say no supplies, think not enough pencils and maybe one eraser per room, a few books or maybe none. Learning is basically through rote – memorizing and hours of copying from the board. They do sing songs but the kids sit while they sing – no moving around – partially because there isn’t room. Most kids wear their backpacks (and coats if they wore one) because there is no place to hang them. The benches and tables are so close together in one room that the kids walk on the tables to get to the “teecha”. The teachers are creative and kind and I so admire the work they are doing. Syd and I hung out in the middle room with teacher Hussein and his 5-6 year olds. They are divided into 2 groups – the fast learners and the slow learners (this is how he described the grouping to us). The fast kids copy math problems from the board in their exercise books. The slow kids work on Swahil sounds and syllables by writing each one 5 times. The baby room has 1 chair for the teacher. The babies (2 1/2 – 3 1/2) sit in three rows on a mat. She has a stack of books with a photo on one page and a sentence on the other. She reads – “The mother is cooking” twice and has the kids repeat. Then she reads the book again focusing on the verb. It’s a good strategy but after nearly 2 hours of this the kids eyes are glazed over and no one is paying any attention at all. Of course all the books feature white parents/kids and often jobs and items that have no meaning to the kids –kites, fire trucks. The teachers in the main rooms do try to individualize by giving certain kids harder math or help less advanced kids help by drawing circles for them count while they do their subtraction or addition.
The second day we visited and helped at AMKA (wake up) the sister school of Step Up. This is a newer facility with two larger rooms and a playground. There are even less resources at AMKA than at Step Up. Syd was with 3 other CCS volunteers in the room with 5-7 year old kids and I was with the babies. There were two teachers, one with the babies (Angel) and one with the older kids (Oliver). Oliver was delayed and showed up 20 minutes or so after class had started. Luckily there were three others to help but it’s kind of when kids have a substitute, they get a little crazy. I thought this was the case, but when he showed up, nothing really changed, there wasn’t much discipline at all. Time went by so quickly. Our driver Sam waited for us for about twenty minutes and we didn’t even know. We were having so much fun singing and dancing that we hadn’t noticed Sam was sitting in his van ready to go so we could pick up others. The ride home is very interesting. We are in vans that comfortably fit nine, but we fit about thirteen. We are all squished and because of the roads, it is very bumpy. The smell of burning garbage fills the van while we have to listen to the college students (there are 16 volunteers under 21) in the back talk about slaughtering pigs. When we get back to the home base, we are pooped.
We choose Step Up as our placement and will be there for the remainder of our time. Today, my first day in the front room with Martin and the 4 -6 year olds was very humbling. All of my teaching expertise is predicated on language and here I am in a hole. While it’s true that I completed a conversation in Swahili yesterday (in our Swahili class) it was the basic –“ how are you, how is your father, mother sister…? Goodbye. I don’t have the words to try to focus their attention, and if I touch a hand or face, they turn, smile and try to take my watch, bracelet or simply stroke my skin or play with my hair. They are fascinated by my strawberry marks. I have quickly learned how to stay stop (acha!) – not because of their touching me but because they smack each other with backpacks, pencils or hands for reasons I hear but don’t understand. I smile, shake my head and separate them. Letting go of my cultural expectations about learning will be an interesting process. I tried 1-10 flashcards with a group of 6 today and most focused through 3…
I (Sydney) was with Hussein again. When I came in to class this morning a few of the kids recognized me; this and just seeing their smiles made me happy. I helped with math and actually got a few to understand how to add numbers to zero. Since they use circles to count on paper, they thing that 0 is really one. After math, they read off the chalkboard for a good ten minutes. Hussein gives them resting time and had me read a story. Today it was “ The Enormous Elephant”. They laugh and smile while I show them the pictures and Hussein translates to Swahili. Then I taught the song Old MacDonald to the kids! It was a lot of fun for the kids and for me. I had a poster with different animals I had drawn that I referred to when they were singing the song. They loved to make the sounds, especially “moo” and “woof”. I learned a few names today and hope to learn more these next couple of weeks. Jina lako ni nini means what is your name; knowing this definitely helps me. When they try to say my name it usually comes out “Shidney” so they stick with “teachaa” instead. I had a great day, I’m excited for tomorrow and the weeks ahead.
Dave is at a vocational center, called MKombozie, (savior) where he has worked all week getting 15 computers operational. The students there are teenagers who haven’t passed the required tests and thus are not allowed to stay in public school. He has a long walk between the school office and the computer lab. Tomorrow may be his first day with students or he may be training the secretary and other teachers.
We caught our first partial glimpse of Kilimanjaro early this afternoon. It is an awesome sight we can’t wait to see it on a day when the clouds part! We’ve also had our first mosquito sightings and bitings. They left us alone for the first 5 days but I guess the grace period is over! We have become experienced mosquito net tuckers – who knew it was an art form?
Tomorrow after our work we leave for our safari to the Ngorongoro Crater. The whole CCS group is going together. We’ll leave about 1:00pm and return Sunday about 6:00pm TZ time. There will be no email until we return and hopefully we will be able to send photos.
Tutaonana Baadaye! (If pronounced correctly it means I will see you later. If pronounced incorrectly it means I will marry you later!)
Sharon, Sydney and Dave