This was a four days week, but what an eventful week. I was so busy that I couldn’t write every day!
I started on Tuesday, leaving with my little flashy green bike at 7:15am from “home”. I was super excited, first because I felt like going everyday to school by bike was thrilling, and mostly because I was very looking forward to teaching a new class.
Arrived just on time at school, I was not expecting the little courtyard filled with all the students from kindergarten to Grade 7, most of them wearing their yellow and grey uniform. I guess it was their introduction for the week to start, and as soon as I parked the bike, one of the teacher introduced me as a temporary teacher and member of staff (!) and I made a speedy introduction in front of everyone, spelling my name. They ended with a motivational (?) song getting louder and louder, before each class went into its classroom joyfully.
All students have 4 hours lessons in the morning from 8am to 12, and 2 hours in the afternoon from 2pm to 4pm except on Friday. There are 2 breaks, one in the morning from 10:10 to 10:30 and 2 hours for lunch.
I went then straight to Wiseman office to discuss quickly how he programmed my help. The director decided to assign the Grade 7 to me every morning. And he would take them back in the afternoon. He was missing 2 teachers from what I understood, because he didn’t have enough budget to pay for these two vacancies due to Covid break impact. Some teachers left during the accumulated 12 months stop over the past 18 months, with the kids staying at home, the teachers too, meaning they didn’t get their meagre salary for 12 months, and no cash entering the school budget. Therefore, some teachers had several classes and he told me how glad he was that I volunteered. He prepared the program already for me. It seemed there was not enough budget to provide a book to each student, but the director printed all the necessary copies for the students. After a brief “Good morning ritual” again with the class, Wiseman left me alone with the kids and the prints. We started with a round of the class, with each of the 25 students presenting themselves, with their name and age varying from 12 to 16, very enthusiast to welcome a foreign “teacher”.
This morning was all about English, and I had to start with an English test!
Then followed by a comprehension exercise on a text about Zambian traditional ceremonies. I was happy to hear the children here reading rather comfortably except for 1 or 2 students, who were still able to read but with a bit more difficulty.
Then the break time at 10:10 was announced with an awful sound like a continuous fire alarm… I was surprised to see most of the students eating chips, pop corns or “MrFreeze” during this break, but they were sold in the courtyard or just outside the school gate.
I was starting to correct some of the morning tests when a teacher Catherine, came to the classroom and told me that I should come take a break in the “teachers’ room”. Catherine had a bachelor degree in child education for Secondary, with her husband working also in education it seems, outside this school. Her little daughter of 2 years old was already attending the kindergarten in this school.
As it was my the first day, most teachers came in the break room and we presented each other while drinking milk tea and white bread (which I politely declined though…). I didn’t retain most of the names, but it was a majority of male teachers at Safe World. At least, I felt integrated right away and I felt very welcome.
After the break, we continued the program with the cultural ceremonies in Zambia, vs France which they were very interested in. Noon arrived much quicker than I expected. I wrapped up the class, and as I said “See you tomorrow” to the kids, I was surprised as they all wanted to give me a hug to say goodbye! I passed my head to the director’s office, very conveniently located next to the Grade 7 classroom to discuss the first morning. I felt very happy and motivated and conveyed my preliminary feelings to the director: the level of the class seems quite good in English. Which was confirmed by the average of 14/20 when I corrected the copies in the afternoon.
It was not before the end of the week that I understood that Grade 7 is the graduation year for the “Primary school certificate” closing the 7 years study of Primary. The final exams were 3 weeks ahead, from 15th to 19th November. And Wiseman told me already that it would be great if I can attend their graduation ceremony on the Saturday 20th November. This is why I had to give a test or two every day… Yep, indeed, they were going to celebrate the graduation before having the results most probably around 22nd / 23rd of December… why not!
The remaining days went busily but smoothly, because Wiseman was a very experienced teacher and prepared the program and material nicely every morning. After he did the scenario, I just had to play the role of the actress. When everything was well prepared, the job was easier right! So I got into the rhythm quickly, getting faster on my bike, not getting lost anymore, (still sweating a lot on the way back though!), liking these kids more and more, retaining all their names, learning how to convert from Base 10 to Base whatever…, (the level required in mathematics for their primary certificate is no joke!), correcting 26 to 52 copies every afternoon…
The structure might not seem as “rich” as Chikumbuso at Safe World, but the level of the kids was nothing comparable. Here, you could see they were indeed taught by serious teachers and that most of them should graduate easily. I guess the motto of the school “We share because we care” resonates nicely.
See you next week!