Saturday, June 16, 2007

Busy week and Day of the African Child (email from Amy)

Well, no one can say that I haven't been working this week. I've been going to school at 6:30 AM as usual (for the teacher meeting) but I have been staying until at least 6:30 or 7 PM. On Monday I held a well attended workshop on making your own teaching aids and then for the rest of the week I helped the teachers, particularly the lower primary teachers, with making aids. Mrs. /Goagoses and Mrs. /Uiras and I made two girls for their classroom to teach about clothing, body parts, and weather. We also made a lot of food, utensils, a birthday cake, and I made printable sheets of Namibian money so the kids can practice with them. I helped Mr. #Narebeb to brighten up his teaching aids. His classroom has always been one of the best for teaching aids, but a lot of them are black outlined drawings because he didn't have the markers and maybe he didn't feel confident. We even made a diagram of the taste sensors on the tongue with a plastic sheet that can be lifted up and put down. Mr. Asser, the maths teacher, and I made a pie chart that can change to any size he wants.

Additionally, during school hours I have been extremely busy getting the window project ready for the hostel (I have been especially motivated because the last few mornings have been really cold.) Thanks to a bank error in our favor (seriously, I didn't know things like that even happened, but I am very very thankful) we actually have enough money to fix all of the broken windows in the sleeping rooms with plastic glass. Then the only broken windows left in the school or hostel will be in the bathrooms, storage rooms, and the kitchen. They say that they can have the windows ready by next weekend, so we could have them fixed in a jiffy.

Also I wrote a letter to a group of people in the States who send blankets to needy children in
developing countries to see if we could get a donation that would belong to the hostel. The hostel could then lend them out to the needier learners so that every child can have a blanket, no matter how poor they are.

Also, I've been working on trying to get 5 of the brightest and most disadvantaged learners' applications ready for a scholarship program. If they are accepted they will be able to get up to N$1500 (US$215) a year towards their school fees, hostel fees, and exam fees, which is more than enough to cover the fees for most of the learners. Primary School fees are much smaller than Secondary School fees, but still at our school learners only pay N$80 (US$11) a year in school fees and N$324 (US$46) a year in hostel fees (if they pay, a lot of them don't have enough money to even pay the school fees.) So that's all I've been up to, nothing much really, just a few minor projects :) .

As I said, I've been helping some of the better and poorer learners to apply for a scholarship and they had to write an essay about why they want the scholarship. They have some really sad stories:
--Elvis, who is brilliant, wrote about how his single mother is unemployed and their animals are too few.
--Sedney, who got the only A I gave out in my class one term, is 16 and in grade 7 because his parents didn't bring him to school until he was 10 and his grandfather is the only one supporting his education and he's afraid that his grandfather will die while he's still busy with his education.
--Erastus was orphaned by both of his parents. Theodor, one of my most diligent and committed learners, wrote how the grandmother who had been paying his school fees out of her pension had died last year. His father is unemployed and he hasn't seen his mother for 4 years, when she abandoned the family, so he is going to school without paying his fees at all and he only had shoes because his unemployed aunt's mother bought them for him.
--The worst story was Nadia's. She was having trouble writing her essay so she asked me for help then she told me how her mother had died while she was sleeping in the same bed as her and how her father refused to support her or her sister because he had so many children by other women who still had mothers to force him support them and also because her stepmother doesn't like her (ironically she loves fairy tales. Maybe stories of evil stepmothers are a little close to home for her.) She told me how her uncle had told her the night before her mother died that God was only waiting for her to pray and then he would heal her mother, so she thought that maybe it was her fault that her mother died because she forgot to pray for her that night (I told her that's not the way things work, that God doesn't let people die because their 11 year old children don't pray enough but I'm not sure she entirely believed me.)

I would really like all 5 learners to get the scholarship. They all need and deserve it, all of them are also getting among the top marks, but they only give out 100 scholarships for all of Namibia and they give out 2/3 of them to girls (4 of our 5 applicants are boys. We tried to get an equal number of girls and boys, but none of the other girls qualified academically. Just a quirk that this year's 7th graders have mostly clever boys. Last years 7th graders were full of clever girls.) Anyway, I think we have a chance that one of them might get the scholarship.

Friday was the Day of the African Child. We had a program-mostly songs and dramas about the need for education or about fighting HIV/Aids. It was sort of like an elementary school program, but we held it in the open sandy part just outside the school. I'm including some pictures. It was my turn to do the morning devotion, so Mrs. /Goagoses suggested that I take the passage where Jesus says that the little children should come to him. She also said that God had wanted Namibia to be independent and then asked me if I thought it was true. I said that I thought that God didn't like apartheid so I thought that he probably was pretty happy that Namibia didn't have apartheid anymore and that I thought that God wanted all people to have a place of their own just like Namibia is our own place. Anyway, it was a nice discussion.

Last week in church the man who shows up for church drunk every week :) pulled me to the front of the congregation and spoke in rapid KhoeKhoe about how God should bless me for coming to church every week and how the children should take me as an example. I'm kind of used to being singled out, particularly in church, but it was still a little weird.

There's still a drought in the area, but no one talks about it much anymore because we're not hoping for rain anymore. Now people are just trying to limit their damages by selling off their livestock and trying to save the money. When you are a subsistence famer livestock is a sort of savings account. Your goats or cattle are your emergency nest egg, your savings, and to some extent, your pension, when you need money you sell some of your cattle. Unfortunatly, during a drought the price of cattle goes down, but if you don't sell them they will probably die of hunger and then you've lost your savings. Anyway, that's the Catch-22. Drought also exacerbates the serious problems of overgrazing and soil erosion, particularly in traditional communal lands like the area where I live. Overgrazing and soil erosion in turn exacerbate desertification (the less plant life in an area, the less rain falls in that area, slowly changing semi-desert savannahs into full deserts) which causes more droughts. It's a vicious cycle. Anyway, not much we can do about it at this point.

Hope everyone there is doing well. I'm doing just fine. I think I've really adjusted to the culture. I rarely feel culture shock anymore. Things seem to make more sense and I understand better what will work and what won't work. I'm just a little worried about the reverse culture shock. I only have 5 or 6 more months so it's just a little frustrating that I've become adjusted when I'm so close to leaving. Also, I'm worried that the more adjusted I get now the worse the shock will be when I return home. Well, what can you do? Take care.

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