February 11, 2017: Exam Success! (Ann)

We set up after-school English language club in Unguja Ukuu because no student from the Primary School had ever passed their Standard VI exams, which they take around the age of 12.  The students take the majority of their exams in English even though Swahili is their native language and the school teachers don’t know enough English to be able to teach. With the help of some excellent teaching by Gasica and Chloe, we can now share the most amazing news. Two girls, Akama and Bahati, passed their exams with such great marks that they have been awarded scholarships to boarding schools on the Tanzanian mainland, where the education will be significantly better than they could experience in Zanzibar. For girls, boarding school is particularly important as it prevents getting pressurised into early marriage or child minding.   

The local teachers arranged an impromptu meeting to thank us for helping the girls pass their exams.  Apparently one day the girls heard that they’d passed their exams and the next day someone from the education ministry took them to Dar es Salam.  It is the first time they’ve been to the mainland, so a big adventure.  Sadly there was no time to say goodbye to their friends and teachers and they’ve been allocated to different schools. We’re hoping that their favourite teacher, Chloe, who played such an important part in their success, can visit them while she’s on the mainland and take them a gift on our behalf. The students in Safari English Club are very motivated by the success of the girls – it shows them what can be achieved by hard work and determination!

We were delighted to be invited to the launch of new text books and teachers’ books for Standard I to IV.  Currently the students don’t have text books and the books their teachers have are full of inaccuracies.  The new books were commissioned by the Milele Foundation and were expertly edited by the Oxford University Press. There are 200,000 books waiting to be distributed to schools around the island. The roll out may be challenging as the teachers will be asked to teach in a way they aren’t familiar with and don’t feel comfortable with.  Zanzibar Schools Project teacher Mohammed attended the launch and is ready to coach the teachers in Unguja Ukuu when the books reach the village.

The Work Readiness course continues to prove very popular with students and is on target to finish in early March.  Current topics include writing CVs, letters of application that win jobs  and interview skills.  In computer skills training the students are also learning how to format CVs and letters of application on the laptops that we’ve brought over from the UK. 

This week Leanne Winterton, avisitor from the UK, kindly ran mock interviews so that students experienced being asked questions by someone they don’t know. Leanne was impressed by the way the students handled the interviews – it’s not the cultural norm to talk about your personal qualities here!  Many thanks Leanne for searching interviews conducted in a facilitative style! Now we’re focusing on spoken English with students reading personal statements from their CVs into a recording device and having the opportunity to hear their own voice, for the first time!  We hope to improve pronunciation and diction. 

The lower intermediates love using dictionaries – it gives them a sporting chance to understand me!  While they’re learning the English, I update my Swahili/English notebook for future quizzes.  Then they have great fun correcting my pronunciation.  It feels like we’re on a learning journey together. At the training course I heard the idea of asking each child to start a personal dictionary.  Duly equipped with 26 small address books (helpfully the letters of the alphabet are cut into the pages), I shared the plan.  Nobody cared that the front of the notebooks said “Addresses” not “Dictionary”, the important thing was that they would each have their own book. There was much excitment and I was thanked by a rendition of the alphabet song and “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands”!  My class has a reputation for being the noisiest, but on Thursday it was the quietest – the students went through various exercise books and used the dictionary to create their own books.

We love having our UK friends involved in what we’re doing.  Thank you Sheelagh Dunk for the origami-inspired fortune tellers (you must remember them from the school playground!) After following various folding instructions the students were able to tell each other their fortunes.  Much laughter when they got the fortunes “You will get married” and “You will have four children”.

Amber, a Suffolk teenager raised money to buy goggles on ebay and sent them out to us.  We’re hoping to arrange swimming lessons soon.  There’s widespread fear of the sea here, few people can swim and there are many drownings when fishing boats capsize. Students can only swim when we’re present so it’s always a great occasion. The goggles from the UK made it extra special.  Hope you enjoy the photos on the next page!

If you want to see the really good photos taken by Richard Harris, our friend and professional photographer, please visit http://www.bigbamboo.photo/zanzibar-zsp for the photos of the students and http://www.bigbamboo.photo/zanzibar for the Zanzibar gallery. Thank you Amber and Richard!