Saturday, June 2, 2012

Village School Life

In many ways it's been a welcome challenge of starting from scratch, living in a foreign place, making new friends, trying to tackle a different language. Except for the language and food, I've adjusted well to the slower rhythyms of village life, but what takes more adjustment is the actual job. What do I do you ask? Well, I've asked myself that same question. Since my primary job is infusing Life Skills in the classrooms, I am at school about 2 and a half days a week—but infusing is not happening. So again, “What do I do you ask?” Well, I laugh a lot---I take nice, friendly teachers aside and ask them if I can teach them how to infuse life skills in the class---they look at me, smile, and say “how can we teach life skills if we have none ourselves.” Next teacher, how about you—you look smart and a little nutty to want to do this, can I look at your lesson plans and infuse a little. “No Tshep, no lesson plans, it's all in my head.” Well then, are there life skills in your head?” “No!” Ok, so forget the teachers, I'll do the teaching myself, and the hell with capacity building.

So, I teach about 4-5 classes per week, depending if there is school or not. That's right, you just never know. They let the kids out if there's no food, if there's some meeting happening, if there's gonna be a fight, or if it's teachers day. Yep, it's Friday, and it's national teachers day. At a briefing yesterday, “the head of school says, what should we do with the kids tomorrow?” Well, nobody's gonna be at school, so I guess tell them not to come---makes sense to me! Back to teaching---I teach, but kids don't talk except in one class. So basically, I'm talking to the walls, but they are so excited to have me in the class, so maybe something is sinking in. I ask the kids if they want to learn the life skills, and in unison, they scream “No,” which means yes. Then why don't you talk? No answer. I also walk around campus a lot, get pulled in by kids who have no teacher. “Where's your teacher?” “Don't know.” I guess it was too far for them to walk from the admin building to the classroom. So I talk to the kids, and they talk back, but if I were actually teaching, they wouldn't talk. Walking around campus, I have to dodge kids because they love to grope at my hair. This is constant, or they beg to have a photo taken. Having a camera at school causes such commotion, so I rarely bring it anymore, and if I want to talk to a kid privately, that's impossible because they all want to hear what I'm saying. So you see, I'm very busy talking to walls and watching out that my hair stays in tact. 

The kitchen staff and the secretary---the two most important people of the school, were hard to crack, but now we are all buddies, and they take pride in laughing at me whenever possible. They teach me Setswana, and when I say it the next day they laugh. If I have a dog hair on my clothes, they laugh. If I eat with my hands like they do, they laugh. If I tell a joke, they laugh. The secretary wants my American shoes, but I tell her that her feet need to lose 25 pounds, then I'll give her my shoes. I offer to walk with her daily, but to this she says no way. Nobody walks here, the teachers live on campus, and drive their car the 20 feet to the main building.

My teen club and english clubs are going rather well, other kids beg to be let into them, but it's to hard having so many, so the doors are shut. The English Club is starting a school newsletter, the teen club has many projects going, and I've done a leadership training for the school council. The frustrating part of it all, is that Botswana allows physical abuse (the stick), under the pretext of discipline. That's the worst, and you can't do anything about it! You also have to get used to things happening randomly, like a teacher actually teaching a class, a meeting actually happening, a kid talking in class, or having electricity and water.  Most teachers are good about teaching, but still, daily, I walk around to see empty classrooms. Then the kids are abused for failing tests, or they're told they are stupid---this is not good! I could go on and on, but just take my word for it--everything seems to perpetually teeter on the brink of “random and weird" happenings---and don't get me started on the primary school.  

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