August 13, 2016: Fun and games at the nursery (Chloe)

Monday 1 August: We had the first class meeting since being back after Ramadan. We sat in a circle in the shade of the old tree and opened the meeting with each person grading out of 10 the progress they feel they have made in English since the classes began in November. (not how good they are at English, but how much they feel they have improved). Marks were between 4 and 10, with most people rating their progress 6 and above. What was most remarkable was seeing the self awareness of the students. They mostly gave themselves grades we would have assigned them if asked. It shows they are aware of their learning and not just floating along. In the meeting we told them about the new students and teacher that would be joining us soon. We explained we shall be making a push to use the library and that each student will be taking a book home every week to practice their reading. We spoke about their attendance and what we expect from them.
Tuesday 2 August: We had another meeting, but this time with the teachers. We told them about the new teacher and asked for their help in finding new students for the class. We talked about a parents meeting we would like to organise to make sure we have the support of the parents so they are encouraging their children to attend, instead of creating barriers for them or prioritising other things. We also feel it would be good to have a direct relationship with the parents so that when we propose new activities (like swimming lessons for example) they are more likely to agree to them.
Thursday 4 August: Over the course of the week Ann and I had been in discussions surrounding our purpose at the school. The talks were very useful as we can both have the tendency to want to do everything and to help everywhere which is not always physically or financially possible and it felt good to be clarifying our mission. We decided that speaking English and learning to think independently are the most important skills for the young people in the village. I thought about this a lot, and on Thursday we presented the “egg drop challenge” to the class. Watching the students work in small teams in order to create a structure to protect an egg being dropped from a great height (or thrown from the top of a large mango tree by Gasica to be more precise!) I was able to see how much of a difference our classes have made on independent thinking already. The students are taking pride in coming up with new and varied ideas, whereas before they often copied one another. And the process by which they are making choices is also evolving.
In the evening I taught a class at ZL4LF. I teach the most advanced students, and their level of English is amazing. It means we are able to do activities that are not always possible with my other classes. We spent the lesson practicing public speaking and learning presentation techniques in preparation for a debate they are taking part in over the weekend.
Tuesday 9 August: This week has seen lots of new and exciting changes. Our project is expanding and the work Zanzibar Schools Project is doing is starting to generate interest and therefore more opportunities. Living in Unguja Ukuu has made it much easier to spend time teaching at different times of the day and week. On Tuesday mornings I teach at the nursery school. Today we played duck duck goose, but called it cat cat dog, and concentrated on the words run, sit and stop. The earlier children get used to hearing and playing in a different language, the more it can help with their development and learning later on, so it seems a good idea to get involved in the nursery school too. When I arrived the children were reciting the Koran in Arabic. It’s amazing that they are expected to do this at such a young age and are often hit with a stick if they lose concentration or get it wrong. I had forgotten about physical punishment here, and it being the main reason the teachers have asked us not to teach during school hours in the primary school. It’s so hard to know how to react and what to say when I see it happen.
Later that day we introduced the new students and teacher to the English class. The new teacher, Sadiq, will be primarily teaching the beginners’ class, but is already a big hit with all our students. He has completed his studies up to university level, just having sat his exams for a degree in Swahili and English Education at the Zanzibar Linguistic College. He has a lot of experience teaching and has developed a calm and friendly manner which makes him popular and approachable in the classroom. He has previously taught at Al Haromein International School, at ZL4LF for over three years, and has also taught reproductive health to young men at the Canadian Institute. He believes that sharing his knowledge has the ability to change lives in Zanzibar, and that being a teacher is a two-way exchange, where he learns as much as he teaches.
We were expecting 20 new students, but have ended up with 26 as so many more wanted to join. There have been tears and disappointment from the children that weren't chosen by the teachers. We have being trying to find space for everyone but on Wednesday we had to send a few children home as we just can't keep letting new students in. It is sad, but I am keeping their names on a list and they will be the first to be offered places next time. And it is wonderful that the demand is there.
We've identified 8 of the new students with an already basic knowledge of English. Gasica will be working with them this week, to help them catch up on the topics we have already covered so that they can join the intermediate or advanced classes, rather than starting at the very beginning again. That leaves 18 new students from Standard IV and V who will be in the new beginner class.
Other exciting news is that we have started teaching evening internet classes for 3 teachers and 4 adult students two evenings a week. On Tuesday I helped the teachers to set up their very first email address, and repeated the process again with the adult class on Friday. It has been a challenge to remember what it felt like to know nothing at all about the internet. Setting up an email address became the aim for the whole 2 hour class, rather than just a step. It was lovely to be able to invite them to the hotel where I am staying (and the only place in Unguja Ukuu with an internet connection!) and do the class whilst the sun set over the sea. Both sets of students have asked to have lessons more often, but the manager of the hotel has limited classes to 2 days a week. If any of you reading this are interested in becoming internet penpals with these new learners, please let me know as I think it could bring the internet, and its possibilities, even more alive for them.
Thursday 11 August:  I had a visit from 2 young Zanzibari women, Salma and Latifa, who are keen to volunteer with us in Unguja Ukuu. They live half an hour away, but have family in the village and have heard about our project. Today they started volunteering with us and Latifa assisted Gasica with the catch-up class while Salma helped Sadiq and I with Fun Thursday.
We split the group into six teams and gave them 3 challenges: to spell a verb using their bodies, to create a structure so only 3 of the team’s feet were touching the ground, and to make a piece of jewellery from things found in nature. We finished the afternoon with some big group games. It was the first time we have had nearly all of the new and old students together and it was wonderful to see them gelling so well. Having the older students there, who have gotten used to the way we teach, made it much easier for the new students to feel less self conscious I think.
After school I was teaching at ZL4LF again. This week we played a game that involved getting your team to guess words written on bits of paper as fast as possible. It really tested the students’ language skills and they all got into the competitive spirit. It was great fun watching 20 young adults all shouting at each other as they tried to guess the words!
Friday 12 August: Standard VI students are now missing our English class because of exam revision, but we don’t want them to lose contact with our program completely over the next 2 months. So at 11.30am I collected the Standard VI children from school and we all (10 of us!) squeezed into my car and drove to the beach where we shared a meal of beef soup before having 30 minutes of free time and play. Then we got our books out and had a 2 hour English lesson on the beach! I gave them a choice of how they would like to spend our weekly lessons - Extra revision on any of the exam topics from that week that they have questions about, or a recap of what we have been learning in the English classes. They asked to concentrate on the English as they don’t want to fall behind, and also asked if we could play some games each week too. It was so much fun to spend time with these 9 beautiful children. Most of all I enjoyed our free time – it was good to be able to offer them some time in which to relax and have fun, especially knowing that straight after our class they had to be back in school for another 2 hour exam revision session.
In the evening the 4 adult learners came for their internet class. It was a bit harder having 4 computers on the go this time, and we had to use 3 tiny hand held devises which made it less clear for them, but they all now also have their own email address and are keen to explore the internet more next session.
It's been a very exciting and busy week watching our English programme grow, and next week looks set to be even busier. On Monday the president of the Ipswich Rotary club is coming to visit Unguja Ukuu with his family; our young volunteer, Robert, is arriving on Tuesday; and also a teacher from Harmondsworth primary school, who are our English penpals, is visiting too. It’s great to see our ZSP family extending so far and wide.
The most exciting news however, is that Robert will be bringing a box-load of Islamic appropriate swim wear for the girls to wear in the sea, which is another big step in getting our swimming lessons off the ground. We are so grateful to Ismail and Modestly Active for donating the swimming costumes and helping the girl’s dreams of learning how to swim as well as the boys come true.