D+4 – Monday 20th September 2021
I didn’t sleep much, either because of the dogs barking in the middle of the night, or because of the excitement to start something new, probably a bit of both. We left home at 7:20, and after driving my host friend to her office, her driver Fortune got me to Chikumbuso for the first time. He knew the area, and we got there easily. He heard about it but didn’t know much about their activities.
Arrived just on time, I was welcomed by Finety, the 7th grade head teacher. She made me the tour of the whole premises. The school classrooms had the same ritual each time we entered the classroom together. The kids stood up all at once with the chairs stringent noise. Then, with a common loud and clear voice, the following dialogue happened:
The kids: “Good morning Madam, how are you?” , The adult: “Fine thank you and, how are you?”, The kids: “We are fine, thank you”, The adult: “you can sit”, The kids: “Thank you”.
Then, I shortly presented myself with my first name, coming from France, to help the teachers for the next few months.
After 30 minutes touring, I joined the kindergarten class, led by the teacher Christine. She was 24 years old, and I was nicely surprised to hear she was a kid sponsored by Chikumbuso, who came back to be a teacher here, after she successfully graduated to be a teacher able to teach from Kindergarten to 7th Grade. She is also living inside Chikumbuso dormitories. That demonstrated the efficiency and the virtuous circle that this Chikumbuso project illustrates.
I saw the difficulty of teaching this kindergarten class (Maternelle in French) due to the wide age range of the kids, from 3 to 8 years old. I was even more impressed by Christine.
During lunch time, that started short after 11am, we ate and discussed together. Christine explained to me that due to Covid, the school was closed for 3 months before restarting exceptionally end of August. In Zambia, it seems that school terms are Jan-Feb-Mar, then May-June-July and Sep-Oct-Nov., with April, August and December being holidays months. So the kids had only one full term, and restarted 3 weeks before I came here.
Just before leaving Chikumbuso, I passed to see Gertrude in her office, and we agreed that I would participate to the school teaching every weekday from Monday to Friday, 8am to 1:30pm. She told me she would send me the agenda in the evening, and I left, very enthusiastic to have started right away!
On Monday evening as promised, I received the weekly program by Gertrude, and it was fully packed with all the grades and the reading class! Tuesday to Thursday were spent the same way, with everyday two different classes. And to finalise my agenda, I agreed to work on the marketing on Thursday afternoons with Mary, the head of Products (Chikumbuso produces and sells bags from recycled plastic etc., articles to come in another section!)
D+8 – Friday 24th September 2021
This morning, I spent it with the 1st grade (equivalent to CP for French).
The teacher this time is Monica and I would remain this time with both classes she had at 8am and 10:30am. The kids were ranging from 6 to 10 years old.
They are most of them coming from the kindergarten class, and they were still so small and cute. I was rather surprised by the fact that almost all kids could re-write in their notebooks what the teacher wrote on the blackboard without too many difficulties even though the handwriting varied highly from one kid to another. The theme today in Science was the Animals at the zoo.
I was following attentively the first class, but this morning, I felt like I was a little bit out of it. I helped the teacher with the corrections, which consist once more to ensure the children had copied properly the instructions written on the blackboard into their notebooks, and they did indeed draw two animals they learnt just before. I was trying to concentrate on each kid who came to me to get his red mark, as some didn’t know yet their alphabet, most of them didn’t know the meaning of their writing, and one kid was probably as good as a 3rd grader. I got a little emotional, my nose stuffing and my eyes watering. How unfair had our humanity got this world.
Am I doing the right thing? I will be gone in few months back to my daily comfortable life and work. These kids will continue with as much as their teachers and association are able to provide. Will I be able to support the separation in few months, when I am getting already so emotional after one week? These questions and more got through my head in the spite of minutes, but I was still in the classroom with the kids and their teacher. I was mature enough to rationalize my thoughts, telling myself I was tired after giving so much energy as soon as I got in Zambia, and I indulge myself thinking that interacting with so many kids in such an environment can be overwhelming.
Then after reading three stories to the class while waiting for their lunch time, amongst which there was one called the Princess in a paper bag (that I highly recommend to any parents!), the lunch break arrived. I knew nothing could go down my throat then as I was still feeling rather down inside, and just accompanied Monica. Her lunch, like all the other teachers and students, was composed of the daily nshima, Chinese vegetable and beans, like Monday. Monica like Mercy was also not sponsored from Chikumbuso and got hired through a regular job vacation application. Her fist grade is also with 32 kids, split in 2 classes due to CoVid.
So this first week at Chikumbuso ended, and I finally decided not to wait the end of this experience to sponsor the cute little 3 y.o. Mary!
See you next week!