Friday, February 10, 2006

About the school, learners and teaching (excerpts from emails from Amy)

My school is (for Namibia) amazingly well organized. After the first 2-3 days we had a very clear schedule and most of the kids were in class. The kids stand outside the door and wait for me to tell them to come in (although they try to bend the rules with me because they're testing the waters.) Discipline is OK, I have to yell more than I'd like, but overall my kids are great. The kids wear uniforms if they have them (not everyone can afford one.) The uniform is a blue shirt and a brown or gray skirt, shorts or pants. When it's cold the kids wear whatever they have over the uniform.

There is a matron and a bunch of cooks at the hostel. Each morning I walk past the fire (cooking porridge for morning tea) and wave to the matrons saying "!gai //goas" The kids also clean the hostel (but they are less messy than American kids seeing as how thy have a lot less and they don't leave things lying around to be stolen by others.) As for laundry, apparently the kids are supposed to do it themselves or have their parents do it on home weekends (every 3-4 weeks) but judging by the smell of some of my learners (especially just before home weekend time). I doubt that they are too fastidious about it.

The kids pay tuition and if they live in the hostel they have to pay fees. Tuition is N$80 ( about $12) a year and hostel fees are about N$120 for one kid for a year ($20), but if the kids can't pay (and a lot of them can't, at least not in one lump sum) the school can't kick them out. It''s a weird system that combines universal primary education and fees. I don't know how they get it to work.

I have two classes of sixth graders with about 25 to each class (which is nice) and the seventh grade class is about 37 (which is tough.) The learners are given exercise books and they usually remember to bring them, but writing instruments are their own responsibility and I consistently have 3 or 4 kids not doing their classwork because they don't have a pen. The textbooks can be a bit of a problem- the worst situation is the 7th grade science class where it's almost 4 to a book, but still I feel lucky, 5th grade math has no textbooks at all- not even a teacher copy.

There are enough chairs and desks for everyone except maybe two in my 7th grade class, although some of them are in bad shape. Many of the tops of the desks are just balancing on the legs and pretty regularly fall off, scattering papers across the floor and disrupting the class. If I had a kid and we lived in Namibia, I'd suggest that he go into desk and chair repair as a career.

I spend some of my free time working in the library, but when I'm relaxing I'll spend time with Mrs. Goagoses, at the Uirab house (usually watching When You are Mine - Diego and Paloma are going to get back together in the next few weeks, I just know it), or at the Geiseb house watching soccer, playing with the little rascals (arnold, Sebytha, and the baby- little Gwenny).

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