August 29, 2016: The newspaper tower challenge! (Chloe)

Community: The overriding feeling of the last 2 weeks has been one of community. We've had many guests visiting the school and people in Zanzibar and England have been helping in all sorts of ways. The togetherness that Zanzibaris talk about so often is really shining through for the Zanzibar Schools Project right now. Our community can be seen in many different ways. The students of the English class have requested we have a name for the class, which indicates they are really taking ownership over it. So all last week we collected suggestions from the students and this week we will hold a vote to decide on the winning name. I've increased my attendance at the nursery school, and the internet classes are still happening 2 evenings a week. This added presence in the village means more and more people are aware of what we are doing and the project is becoming a valued part of the community. I'm often told by members of the village that they feel this togetherness and people offer their advice, or help if we ever need it. Or invite me to their homes for tea!
Yesterday we held a parents meeting at the school. The teachers had warned us we should not expect many people to attend as they rarely do. But we were overwhelmed by the number of parents who came. They were all so positive about the project, they told us about the changes they are seeing in their children and how they hope the project will continue for a long time. They also offered their help... in English classes, teaching swimming and just general support when we need it. It was so lovely to meet all the parents and to be able to talk to them about their children. It was also great to see most of the primary teachers there too. It really proved to me that they are behind the project. Tupamoja means we are together in Swahili, and the phrase was repeated often throughout the meeting. In the meeting we:

  • Introduced ZSP (Ann and Caroline) and Gasica, Sadiq and I.
  • Spoke about our other volunteers and visitors
  • Spoke about the time, energy and money we are investing in their children
  • And in return asked them for their commitment to the project and to their children's attendance
  • Talked about the library and the students taking books home (we will start next week)  Discussed swimming lessons (Parents were joking about who the best swimmer is among them and competing to be our swimming assistants!)

Thank you! But the ZSP community is not just here in Zanzibar, it reaches far. So this update is really just a big thank you to all those that support us. Thank you to Ann and Caroline for always being there when we need advice, for working with so much energy to improve things for the youth and community of Unguja Ukuu. Thanks also to all our guests over the past 2 weeks... Rory, Orla, Karen, Paul, Sarah and Joe. Taking the time to talk and share stories with the students really brings the English learning to life. Sarah, the students loved finding out more about their English pan-pals. Also, a huge thanks to all our volunteers right now. Salma and Latifa bring so much enthusiasm and are a great help in the classes, and Rob our student volunteer from England has been such an amazing person for the children to meet, learn from and have fun with.
And thank you also to our wider community. Thanks to Ismail and Modestly Active for providing us with Islamic appropriate swimwear. We are so grateful, and now we finally have a yes from the parents and teachers, classes can go ahead! Thank you to all those who have offered to write emails to students this week in the internet class... Kylee, Dee, Karen, Crystal, Laura, Bean and Philip. They’ll be so happy to receive them.
And of course thank you to all the individuals and groups who have donated funds which mean we can continue doing what we do. The Rotary Club is amazing, especially Brighton and Hove Soiree and Stone Town Zanzibar clubs. And to Hurstpierpoint Community Charity, who recently donated funds which meant we were able to plaster the nursery school.
The English classes: The intermediate and advanced classes have been concentrating on the past simple. Most students found this relatively easy and have been quick to learn the irregular verbs (of which there are many!). It really was so great to have all the visitors with whom they could practice asking and answering questions about their past. We also used the kiokit for grammar practice, and I was lucky enough to have all three volunteers helping me out which meant we were able to split into small groups. Using the computers in this way worked very well.
The beginner class has been concentrating on English basics. They are now able to introduce themselves, have a good grip on the alphabet, numbers and animals and shall start learning pronouns and simple verbs this week. They also had their first session with the kiokit which they all loved. It is always so fascinating to see how children who have had no contact with this kind of technology pick it up so quickly.

Fun Thursdays: Two weeks ago we had a newspaper tower challenge. Students split into small groups and were given a stack of newspaper and a roll of tape. The challenge was to come up with a design to make the tallest tower using just those 2 items. In the end all the groups used the same design; one neither Rob nor I had seen before when we’ve done the challenge in the UK. And we had never seen such tall towers before either! Once the challenge was over many of the students made hats with the newspaper and we had a huge game of Chinese whispers and taught everyone to do a Mexican wave. Last week we came to the beach for Fun Thursday. In one of our previous classes Rob had explained to the students that his favourite sport is rugby. No one had heard of the sport before so Rob taught the kids rugby on the beach, while other students revised, played games or walked to the very low tide line.
Standard VI Classes: we've been doing extra English sessions on Fridays for the Standard VI students who are missing our classes due to exam revision. After Friday’s lesson I was feeling quite worried as it was clear to see how quickly they are losing their English skills now they are not using them regularly. The problem is that they need good English to pass the exam, but they cannot come to our English classes any more as the exam revision classes are a government requirement. They are so exhausted with all the extra study they are doing that it seems unfair and unrealistic to ask them to commit to even more hours of study each week - Rob and I found it hard work to keep them motivated as they were so tired. Ann, Caroline, Gasica and I are all thinking of the best way to proceed. But seeing how tired they are I am inclined to make the Friday lessons as fun as possible by just playing games in English and offering help with their exam topics if they have questions.
ZL4LF:  It's been great having Rob help with the ZL4LF English classes. He enjoyed it so much he has been spending a lot of his evenings there on his own and has formed strong friendships with many of the ZL4LF teachers and students. Last Thursday we helped the students to write poems/raps on different topics and finished the class with a big rap battle which got everyone very excited. This week we asked the students to create plays in different styles and gave them the challenge of including 10 strange phrases and words in each one