May 19, 2016 Doudi's story (Chloe)

I promised to keep you all updated on the Cholera outbreak here in Zanzibar. So far the illness has affected over 3,000 people, sadly resulting in 57 deaths. The good news is it is on the decline with 99 cases reported this week, down from 199 the week before and 245 the week before that. The Government is reported to be lifting the ban on restaurants, cafes and street vendors selling food. For a while even weddings and funerals were prohibited from providing fresh food. The heavy rains have abated, which should improve things even further.
Both Philip and I have also been unwell this last month, but luckily we are both feeling fit and healthy now. And although as teachers we have all been absent from school at various times, with the help of some wonderful volunteers we have kept the English classes going every day.
Monday 2nd May: The students spent this week mostly revising all the different topics that we have covered over the last 2 months in preparation for the exam they shall do next week (at their request). The elements they were most keen to revise were telling the time and the present simple.
On Monday we also went to visit Doudi who had been excluded by the teachers from attending our English Class. After consulting Ann and Caroline it was decided that we would offer him the opportunity to attend ZL4LF (An English school, which also offers training opportunities, run by Gasica) for 3 months, but we needed to talk to him and his family about whether they would be happy for this to happen.
But we discovered that Doudi does not have family in Unguja Ukuu. In fact he lives on his own. In a tiny room, the size of a small bathroom, in a house that's in the process of being built. There is nothing in it at all and he has been told he has to leave once the windows and doors have been put in. He sleeps on a bed of concrete breeze blocks, with a thin layer of cardboard on top. Above his bed is a wooden frame he has built himself to hang a mosquito net from. He has no mattress or blanket or soft furnishings. In the corner of the tiny room sits a sack of rice and a few vegetables which he buys each week and cooks for himself. He also has a suitcase with 2 pairs of trousers, a few tops, and his school books inside. And that is it. As there is no door when it rains he gets wet and there is nothing to keep the mosquitoes and insects out.
He told us his story, which was really very sad. And the whole time we were there, you could feel how much it meant to Doudi that someone was asking him questions and was truly interested in what he had to say. He asked us to plead with the teachers to allow him back to the English classes. We told him we would talk to them but in the meantime we wanted to know if he would like to attend ZL4LF. He was excited, but also apprehensive about the prospect and decided to think about it for a day or two and to ask the woman who had allowed him to live in the room.
During the week we returned to visit a few times with different students from ZL4LF, so he could get to meet some of them before making a decision. They all thought Doudi was great and were eager to have him come to ZL4LF. And Doudi decided it was something he would like to do too. We hadn't been able to talk to the teachers beforehand, but the day after Doudi left Unguja Ukuu we held a meeting to discuss the situation with them. They had heard about Doudi leaving his house with a suitcase in the presence of a Mzungo (me), and there were lots of rumours about Doudi having gone to live in England! We told them he was at ZL4LF and how we all (Ann, Caroline, Gasica and me) felt about the situation. We also spoke to them about his life and his character. The teachers who had been the main instigators in making Doudi leave looked really quite ashamed and all the other teachers seemed willing to have him back in the class once his time at ZL4LF is over. Over the past few weeks Doudi has settled into life at ZL4LF. Gasica sees him often and I have been to visit him many times and it has made us both so happy to see him with new friends and being welcomed so warmly into the ZL4LF family. He sleeps and works with a group of students at the chicken farm and attends English classes every morning.
Thursday 5 May: Today Philip and Karen, a volunteer from England, led the students in a class using the Kiokits to read stories together. As the students have no text books the fact that they could all hold the same story book (on the tablets), at the same time, and read and follow along together was very exciting and worked really well. It was easy to see how with the right software, the technology can make up for a lack of physical text books and it is something we will continue to explore over the following months.
Monday 9 May: Today was the big exam and all the students were excited about proving their English skills and winning the prize of coming back to our house in Stone Town for a home cooked biryani and going to Forodhani Gardens. I'd never known the students to be so silent as during the test. You could hear a pin drop and the concentration was palpable.
Tuesday 10 May: Today, before class, we had the lovely task of visiting the nursery school to deliver educational materials which had been bought with a donation made by a generous woman back in the UK. The nursery children and teachers were so happy with their new equipment and got straight to work testing everything out.
Wednesday 11 May: We gave the children the results of the exam. Some were very happy, but some students performed less well than they expected. I spent a few minutes at the beginning of the class talking about how exams only measure one type of intelligence and how some of the students who I have great conversations with in English, got relatively low grades, whereas others who find it quite difficult to talk in English performed well. I found it sad to see some of them so disappointed, but Gasica assured me they are used to’s the only form of measuring learning that they know of, and that it will push them to work even harder. We spent the rest of the lesson creating our own hand-made wall charts with colour pencils, paints and felt tips which we will take down to the nursery school once they have been assembled and child proofed! I want to mention here, how little creativity is encouraged in schools in Zanzibar. There are no arts classes of any type and the students really love having colours and paints to play with. At the same time the students are not used to drawing and it can be quite a tough task for them to draw something on their own, without copying. However, the times I have brought coloured pencils to school, the class can spend hours engrossed in colouring.
Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 May: This weekend saw a special celebration in honour of the graduating students at ZL4LF. On Saturday there were games and performances at the school, followed by a formal ceremony in the evening that both Philip and I were invited to attend. Watching Gasica talk to his students about what they can achieve in their lives really brought home to the both of us how lucky we are to have him as part of our team at Unguja Ukuu. On Sunday the whole school went to Nungwi, in the northern-most tip of Zanzibar.
Monday 16 May: Today we introduced the subject of prepositions. We taught the class words such as: on, in, beside, under, over, with, at etc. using a furry toy monkey and a box. We then played a game where we hid objects around the classroom and the students had to guess where they were (“Is it under the table?” “Are they in your pocket?”)
Once the lesson was over it was time for the exam winners to claim their prize. We took the 2 top students from both classes, plus a 5th student we feel is working very hard, back to Stone Town with us. It was so sweet to see the students’ wide eyes and awe at the sights in Stone Town. They really enjoyed it and Sharifa especially told me many times how happy she was. It was also a real treat for us as teachers to spend quality time with such a small group of students. I was able to speak with one student in particular called Tahiya. I had no idea previously how much she could say in English, and how confident she was once she was out of the classroom setting. The highlight for me was sitting around our kitchen table with all our plates piled high with food, joking and talking as we ate. When it was time to leave nobody wanted to go, asking if they could stay for the night. But eventually they all climbed into the car for the hour’s drive back to Unguja Ukuu.
Tuesday 17 May: The rest of the week has been spent writing letters for the pen-pal project so they are ready to send off in early June. It was very interesting hearing about what the students’ parents do for a living, what they can see from their houses and what their houses are made of. Many students have to walk a long way to school in the mornings, and evenings are spent going to Madrassa, fetching water and digging up stones to build with (along with the usual things like watching TV and helping their mums to cook dinner).
Thursday 19 May: Philip had previously uploaded some tongue twisters onto the Kiokit and today we read them together with much fun and laughter. Favourites included some Dr Zeus and classics such as She sells sea shells on the sea shore and Red lorry, Yellow lorry!
We only have a few more weeks until school closes for a month for Ramadan. We have lots of things planned for before then which I will tell you all about in the next update... but expect news on our second school trip, a big English birthday celebration complete with pass the parcel and the bumps, and an all English talent show to mark our last day at school before the break.