Monday December 7: Aspects of time formed the subject matter for today in the teachers’ session. We had a lively discussion about attitudes toward time, in the course of which we elucidated some well known sayings such as ‘time waits for no man, “time is on our side”, and ‘time flies.” The concept of punctuality was discussed. It seems that in Zanzibar, when one agrees to an appointment at 10, arriving at any time up to 10:59 would be deemed punctual. Discussion sharpened the teachers command of spoken English.
There's much confusion in telling the time as the Swahili clock starts at dawn, which is always 6am. So 7am UK time is known as 1 in the morning. We explained that our clock starts at 12 as we have different times for dawn and dusk throughout the year. This was greeting with incredulity and then with sympathy. All the teachers thought the idea of a cold, dark winter couldn’t compensate for our long light days of Summer and thought it must be impossible to sleep with so much light.
In the beginners’ group, we used a set of coloured scarves and a football to illustrate prepositions. Great fun for all as well as some English learnt. We concluded the day with a competition between boys and girls to see who could demonstrate the prepositions most quickly using the ribbons. Two rounds resulted in a tie (literally).
Tuesday December 7: Work on time continued and we reviewed the simple past tense, giving extensive lists of regular and irregular verbs... you have to feel sorry for non-native speakers! We explained “cutting it a bit fine” (they were convinced this meant arriving 10 minutes late) and “contingency time” is an equally alien concept. However “a period of Grace” was warmly embraced.
The afternoon session with the younger students saw them recording data about themselves. They were weighed, measured, and asked about their family composition, writing the details down on a pro forma we created for them. They seemed to like weighing themselves, most of them getting on the scales several times!
Today used to be Tanzania’s public holiday to celebrate independence. However, the new president, who is against any form of waste, has banned celebrations and asked the citizens to focus on tidying up the country instead. Our local friend at the swimming pool thinks this is entirely appropriate because the money saved can be used to help provide medicines in the area of the country where there’s a cholera outbreak.
Wednesday December 9: One of our students is a fisherman and he has kindly brought us several buckets of cooked crabs. So today we had a class on snorkelling which was very popular. Some great English was generated including “The bubbles are swimming in the sea” and, having only just learnt the word “explorer” one girl wrote “The people are exploring the sea”. Result!
Thursday December 10: Today we met with the school committee, the headmaster and the teachers to discuss how we could best integrate with the school when they return in January. There’s enthusiasm for English lessons amongst the teachers, but time can’t be made for classes during the school day. However they agree that they will voluntarily attend classes for 1 hour a day, three times a week. We will also assist with the school’s English classes, which means we can reach a lot of the children.
The community classes in the afternoon will continue at 1pm. However, as they are straight after school and the children don’t have time to get home for lunch we will make a contribution to lunches being brought in from the village. All children who attend these classes will be required to register and commit to attending regularly. This is extremely exciting as we can develop a comprehensive curriculum for these students who are so hungry to learn.
It’s so rewarding to see the progress that’s being made – one of the students had spent the time when the film was running to copy out all the “hobbies and interests” section of the Swahili phrase book. Quite unprompted by us today she appeared with a list of questions for us that ranged from “Do you like social dancing?” to “Do you like painting?” Gasica explains the new teaching approach to them for January 2016 and there is much solemn listening to the proposal. Numbers will be confirmed next week.
In addition to the new teaching programme for 2016, we're hoping to purchase 10 resilient laptops. One of our friends who is a computer expert is thinking of coming out here at the end of April and will supervise teaching some of the teachers and students about computers.