Here is a quick round-up of what’s been happening in Unguja Ukuu recently.
English Lessons: The advanced and beginner classes are doing really well, learning more each day and improving their conversation skills each week. We are still very impressed and happy with the classes Sadiq is creating for the beginner class. They are fun, simple and clear and the young students are all enthusiastic.
The intermediate class seems to have reached a stage where they are a little overwhelmed by all different subjects they have covered in the last year. They do really well in a class, but then forget what they have studied within a few days. I've experienced this myself when learning a new language – there comes a point when my brain feels saturated and it feels like I've taken a step backwards. Usually all that is needed is to stop learning anything new and to just practice talking with the knowledge you have until it feels natural and comfortable. So we have decided not to teach anything new to this class for the time being and just to concentrate on the things they have already learned. We hope that by creating fun, conversation based exercises the language will become a part of them, rather than something they have to try to remember.
Upcoming Exams: November and December is the time for exams in Zanzibar. The standard 6 children are still absent from our classes due to exam revision and 5 of them have now started boarding during the week at an exam revision camp half an hour away. And now the Form 2 students are also in extra revision which means they are missing our classes as well. The upside to this is that both the intermediate and advanced classes are smaller which means it’s much easier to get the whole class practicing conversation and giving individual attention to the students.
Swimming: Since the arrival of the burkinis back in August we’ve been having regular swimming lessons in Unguja Ukuu. It’s a very popular activity amongst the students, with a few having learned to swim already, and the others well on their way and feeling much more comfortable in the water. We had intended to train some local adults to be swimming instructors, but it’s been hard finding people with a level of commitment we can rely on. (Our top candidate has only shown up to one of the lessons so far, and then he decided not to swim even though he was there!) We are still thinking about how best to proceed, but in the meantime the three ZSP teachers have been leading the sessions along with different volunteers.
Reading programme: Students in twp of the classes are now proud owners of a reading folder in which they are taking home a book each week. The folders help to keep the books in a good condition and also include a book log that parents sign after listening to their children read, an instruction sheet in Swahili for parents with suggestions for questions they can ask to check on their child’s comprehension of the story and a cover that the students had fun colouring and making their own. I've spent a lot of time this past month listening to the students read and making sure the books they are choosing are at the right level for them. We are all very happy with how the project is going. The students are increasing their vocabulary each time they read and we have just heard that My Book Buddy will be funding an individual dictionary for each student which will really help them to get as much learning from the books as possible.
Visitors: we have had a few visitors to the school which the students always love, and my father is currently here for 3 weeks helping out in the classes. It’s been very interesting to see how much they students enjoy having an older person around and that they have really enjoyed his personal, calm and simple way of teaching.
Building work: Due to some amazing donations from the UK we have been able to fund bringing electricity to the nursery school which they need for the well. This means the teachers, students and surrounding community will have easier access to fresh water. We have also been able to approve work to the computer room at Unguja Ukuu primary school. They will tile the floor which should go a long way in making the room dust free, prolonging the lives of the computers there. They'll also replace a blackboard with a whit all for projecting onto.
Gasica’s visit to the UK. Many of you will have had the chance to meet Gasica during the four weeks that he’s been in the UK. He is making the most of every minute and has so far spoken at 2 Rotary meetings and addressed about 600 people at the Rotary District Conference in Eastbourne. The meeting was a fantastic platform for the Zanzibar Schools Project and we made some great contacts with Rotary Clubs that are looking for projects to support and we even met a chicken farmer who’s interested in an African project.
Gasica loves visiting schools and the students find his story so inspiring. Gasica and our young volunteer from the Summer holidays (Rob Lindfield) are working with Varndean College to set up a microfinance project with the students at PLCI school in Zanzibar and we hope the project can be replicated by other schools and Rotaract Clubs.
Gasica is enjoying professional development courses at the English Language Centre in Hove. Although he’s never taken an exam before he was placed in the Advanced English Class and he enjoyed experiencing new teaching techniques. He’s currently in the middle of his Teaching English as a Foreign Language course and works hard every evening writing up his notes so that he can share what he’s learnt with teachers when he gets back to Zanzibar.
As if this wasn’t enough, Gasica has learnt to swim (after an hour he could swim 4 lengths of crawl), has met the local MP to thank him for supporting his visa application and has hobnobbed with the mayor of Eastbourne.