Monday November 30: All 800 children are back in school after an absence of 6 weeks...but they aren’t in the classrooms or learning! Some lackadaisical sweeping and grass cutting took place, but at the end of the day it looked the same as last week. We teach the oldest year group, aged 13-15. They have just taken exams, all in English, to qualify for senior school. However, the standard is shockingly low – the children can barely answer the question, “How old are you?” Not sure if this was due to not knowing numbers or due to the usual habit of repeating what the teacher says rather than answering a question. But at least “The Lion King” overcame all barriers.
Some of the students who come to our voluntary 1pm class had campaigned for our classes to continue. Fewer than usual turned up but they had more individual attention than usual. By the end of the day, it becomes clear that school is not back for 2 weeks, it was just a random day when the children attended school. So, back to the original teaching schedule tomorrow.
Tuesday December 1: In the morning we had some interesting conversations with the teachers. In a discussion of good and bad habits, one of the Muslim teachers noted that drinking alcohol is a bad habit. Another wanted to know whether we drink alcohol and we prevaricated by introducing my grandmother’s favourite saying “A little of what you fancy does you good”. One of the teachers jokes that she will now try some wine...Oh dear, have we corrupted the village? Afterwards we talked about it with Gasica, who is a great interpreter of social nuances as well as being a super teacher. He says that the teachers wouldn’t be surprised that we drink alcohol but the discussion is a sign they feel comfortable with us.
A further sign that the teachers are at ease were two questions that came up in private from two of the younger women. They asked “How do you teach the children English?” and “Can you teach us computer skills?”
Wednesday December 2: Today we use the coloured ribbons again that were kindly donated by one of our friends. As there are than 40 children in the beginners’ class, the ribbons have been cut in half so each child can hold one during the lesson. Now they are good at colours, they are learning how to wave the scarf, sit or wrap it around specific body parts. However, we get stuck on the instruction “tie a bow”. Only a few children master the art of bow tying. No-one has done this before, not even Gasica. Footwear is primarily flip flops and for football the kids run around barefoot. Now we are obsessed at spotting lace up shoes and indeed there are very few either in the shops or on the local feet.
Thursday December 3: The boys want a football. We are being careful not to give in to every request. Pencils and pens were given out in the first week to publicize the classes and were given to reward consistent early attendance in the second week. So, in line with this approach Gasica tells the children that they can have the football on Monday if they have memorized his football vocabulary. The challenge is to find words that are different in English and Swahili as most footballing terms are used in English!
In the evening Gasica is using “Frozen” with 80 children at his after school club. He's replicating all of the approaches that we use in Unguju Ukuu during the day at his school/orphanage in the evening. He calls himself “The ideas thief” but we are delighted that he wants to try new ideas with his trainee teachers. All the paper materials that we use are photocopied in bulk so that Gasica has enough for his school. There are no text books, so having photocopied exercises speeds up the learning process rather than writing everything on the blackboard.
Friday December 4: An important planning session today. We're working on Gasica’s visa to visit the UK in March. The English Language Centre in Hove has very generously awarded him a bursary to attend English language classes and TEFL teaching. We know of teachers from Pakistan who also had student bursaries who couldn’t go to England due to visa problems. We are collecting letters of support from the local Rotary club to demonstrate Gasica’s fine character and determination to return to Zanzibar.