For this second week, I cannot stop being marveled at the Jacaranda trees and its purple flowers. The flowers are getting into a harden fruit. Every day is filled with purple rain and Jacaranda flowers carpet in the garden, and on my way back and forth to Chikumbuso!
I thought initially that I should spend this experience fully immerged into my volunteering work. However, the contrast of coming back to a « western life » with Caroline and her son every evening and weekend is probably bringing a balance to keep my volunteering work fully focused and motivated.
This Monday, I started with the kindergarten class like last week and all following week. Christine was not there, and was replaced by Angela, the librarian. I inquired to know why, and it seemed that Christine had to go to the hospital with her 3 year old sick kid. Hopefully, when I passed in front of the kindergarten class before I left the school, I saw her back into her class, and she was fine. So, Angela was making the class reading aloud and I got to tell the story of Joseph and his coat to the 14 kids, with all their angelic faces. And I was starting to get familiar with most of them.
Even though the facilities are small, I still didn’t remember the location of each classroom, except Kindergarten and Grade 7… so at 10:30am, I was led to the next class, the Grade 2 (French CE1) with Faggie. I had a bit more time to discuss with her during lunch time. Faggie graduated from Fairview College of Education, thanks to Chikumbuso sponsoring, probably like all the students that were sponsored by Chikumbuso and were able to make it into College. At 27 years old, she had the Early Childhood diploma which covers the teacher qualification from kindergarten to 4th grade (CM1). I would see her later this week playing the ball with her class in the courtyard. She was highly motivated and it resonated through her entire class. Like all the teachers, she seemed very involved and aware of all the children’s conditions at home. Most of them lived with a single parent or with their grandparents or relatives. It seems that most of the parents were maids, or selling charcoals, or selling small fish, or not working. « All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights« . Seriously…
On Tuesday, I started with the 7th Grade with Finety. Even though I do prefer the pre-school classes, I can see that I am more useful for the primary and intermediate classes. On the contrary to the other classes, Finety finished the program of the 7th grade already. So, after a dynamic song to start the lesson, I was asked to start the revision of the line graph…
Then I went to Grade 6 with Howard, the only male teacher. An the only one that is not rhythming his class with any local song. His class seemed to me the most in difficulty. Howard confided that after the 3 months of no-school due to CoVid, the kids in his class did not speak English at all at home, and they came back mainly speaking their local dialect, the Nyanja. Today were the decimals, but it seemed to me that negative decimals were not the forte of the teacher… but I’m not sure the kids were following much anyway.
Arrived Wednesday, starting with Grade 4 (French CM1) and Adelaïde who let me teach the whole session. Did I mention that all the classes have only 2 disciplines it seemed: English and Mathematics. This was an easy English lesson for the children with the prefix re- and un-, in English. Then I tried to help them memorize the table of multiplication of 9 and 7, as it seemed that the class was struggling particularly with these 2. Even though we went trying to learn them by heart with a certain rhythm, it felt like it was far from being imprinted in these young brains. I have to mention the multiplication tables here are up to 12 and not 10 like in France! At the end of the lesson, she asked me if we can take some time just the two of us outside the teaching hours, as she would like to discuss some things. I was a bit intrigued, and was wondering if she was going to tell me I was doing some teaching wrong… We had our chat during the Thursday lunch time, and she was actually asking me if I could give some recommendations for her class. Which I answered straight away that she was doing great! And when thinking on the spot, I could only tell her what I was truly thinking: the most important for all these kids from Chikumbuso I believe, is to finish their school year knowing how to speak, read, write and count. And I insisted on the last one: these kids should know even better than the other kids their multiplication tables, and how to add, substract, and divide, as it will be useful in their daily life without computer or smartphone.
The other class of Wednesday was the Reading class with Mercy, a former sponsored kid also. This class was particularly created to pick out those who had trouble in reading, whatever their age and grade, before they go back to their normal class. However, they were also doing Mathematics, which was still on divisions, like Grade 5. The method to learn how to read seemed to me very fastidious, and I still must see more to understand how the kids are progressing on their reading…
During lunch time, I asked Mary how she could remain so thin eating nshima 2 or 3 times a day (yeah, stupid question! But you should see the portions!), but I was surprised by her answer. She told me she was exercising a lot because she used to be a model, and she wanted to restart being one, in parallel of being a teacher. She was living at her aunt’s place because she was coming from a place located 6 hours from Lusaka. And her aunt was doing a business of buying and reselling the little dried fish.
On Thursday, I got Maria and her Grade 5 (French CM2). We were still doing divisions, like last week. However, it seems that most of the kids progressed and some started to understand how it worked. The method I used to learn as a kid was not valid here, and I adapted the teaching to the local way after seeing Maria teaching a division. I really liked Maria’s teaching. She explained things simply and clearly and tried to confirm it with each pupil of her class, while motivating them with a lot of dynamism. I totally forgot, but the classroom reminded me that I gave them some homework last week, to write an informal letter addressed to me. How touching is this:
Then it was already 10:30 to switch class with Angela and the Grade 3 (French CE2). It was a perturbed class because the electricians came to install / change the fans of several classrooms, and they were making a lot of noise. I felt like shouting all through the session. Angela was wearing a dramatic blue dress when I came last week, but now seeing her with her “shitange” wrapped around her waist (like most women in Zambia seems to wear), I was thinking that maybe the word circulated about me taking pictures of each class last week… Anyway, Angela was making me laugh, but she was indeed a very courageous down-to-the-earth woman. She was a 31 year old single mother with a 1.5 year baby, who is looked after by a nanny during the working day. Even though she had 2 sisters and a brother, they were all grown-ups that couldn’t help looking after her child.
And finally, Friday class arrived already, how time flies. Monica prepared a special morning for her first grade, it was a ‘test day”. 10 questions that each kid had to answer on a separate piece of paper. I quickly realized that 1 kid, Emmanuel, was not copying down the questions like the others. He didn’t seem to have learnt his alphabet yet. After Monica agreed that I can take him apart, I spent the full hour only to write a b c d. He was such a lovely kid concentrating all his efforts into trying to do well. However, I could see there was a deeper problem as he was forgetting every few seconds what he was learning and what he was writing within these 4 letters only. I was thinking how it would have been easy in Europe to send a kid to a specialist to diagnose any problem. But not here. He didn’t have the same chances. Monica told me that even though they knew he had issues learning, as he spent 2 years already in Kindergarten, she had to take him into Grade 1. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to have any trouble with speaking and laughing easily with the other kids of the class. I felt very sorry though. If you want to sponsor even partially our little 7 year old Emmanuel (his birthday is actually this 4/10), let me know.
To end this week, I will write about the lunch, as everybody knows how much I love food…. Lunch time is generally 30 minutes between 11 and 12:30, as each class is being called one after the other once the food is being cooked. You have to see these brave ladies preparing food for 500 meals every day! 50kg of corn flour is used for their daily nshima, and the giant spoons are very funny to see. However, every week has exactly the same menu: nshima, vegetables (they call it Chinese cabbage, but not sure it is the same one we know…), and the only variation is between beans, little dried fish, or eggs (300 for one meal, call it THE giant scrambled eggs!). I have to admit I generally don’t eat lunch except when it is eggs day, ie on Fridays!