Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kids, Kids, Kids.

When we walk to the "school" in the mornings (which is about 5mins from our house) as soon as the children get sight of us they come charging towards us--about 80 of them all at once.
Ruby and I both teach a class of approx. 80 kids each. They're adorable--they really are. They are incredibly intrigued with our skin and hair and just love to touch us. It's quite normal for us to be walking with 6 kids hanging off each arm and other holding on to our clothes. They sometimes fight over who gets to hold our hands-- but there seems to always be enough time for everyone to walk with us for a bit. They really just love being hugged. This is true of ALL kids in Bagamoyo--we often have children we have never seen or spoken to come run up and hug us. It's a great feeling to have so many little people so excited to see you each day.

The problem is--it's nearly impossible to give 80 kids the individual attention they need. We have absolutely nothing to work with. The 80 kids sit on the floor in front of us and we don't have pencils or crayons and only about half the kids have books. We have a chalk board and some white chalk. That's it. I don't think there is a single child in my class that has a working uniform. They're all tattered and ripped, missing buttons and have broken zippers. Today was actually pretty depressing. There just isn't enough resources here. These kids are really loosing out. We don't have time to spend with the kids on a one-on-one basis they've just been taught to memorize things. In other words, they can count 1-50 (impressive you would think for 3-5yr olds) but they have absolutely no concept of what they're actually saying. When I draw four circles on the board they can't actually count them. The whole system is really screwed up. The teachers aren't really teachers--they're "volunteers" who have no teaching experience and who havent been paid in months.
All of the kids that we are working with all come from extrem poverty. They are either orphans, HIV + or are deemed very vulnerable kids.

My time is running out...must run.


JR said...

Sounds exciting, can't imagine what it must be like.

Mona Albano said...

Can you set up a PayPal account for donations to your school? or blog and ask for contributions? Ask friends to send paper/pencils?

Suggest you make some materials. This sounds silly but some of the best arithmetic tools for young kids are just sticks 1, 2, 3, etc. units long so they can play adding, counting, and seeing the difference. Similarly, pebble games: place in groups, how many can you count at a glance, "buy" and "sell", how many pebbles do you end up with? Rhythm, singing, and dancing -- great for social cohesion. As THEM to teach you their songs. Maybe teach half of them something and half another and get them to teach each other, then trade about.

Beg a needle and thread and teach button sewing. Horsehair, donkey hair, cow-hair can be used for thread. Elementary weaving. Can you get someone in to teach a traditional basket skills? Cooking?

Germ theory - washing your hands, don't drink from the ladle and put it back in the pot, everyone carry their own cup? In the Middle Ages, people would have a cup that they kept tied to their belt so they could get a share of whatever was being ladled out.

Oral and local history from adults in the community? Ask adults what people need to know, what needs to be passed on to the children that maybe they're missing because their families are overburdened.

What are the resources? What do they need to know? In what language?

Social comparison - things are different in other countries. E.g, you were taught that looking someone in the eye is a sign of openness and honesty, they may be taught it's rude, "Searching out lies" (China) or aggressive, challenging, sexy. Find out. Let them know their way is OK but there are other ways.

Stories. Teach them the story of Stone Soup. The parable of happy and unhappy life. Unhappy life: a bunch of people with long-handled spoons, can't feed themselves. Happy life: a bunch of people with long-handled spoons, feeding each other. Let them comb each other's hair and brush dust off each other.

Good luck!