I'm sorry it had been so long since I have posted anything! I cannot get my computer to connect to the Internet here, so I only have my phone to use! Needless to say, the last thing I want to do after my long day of teaching and volunteering, is type out my blog on my phone... But today was a unique day, and I want to share about my experience with one of my learners today.
During the last period of my day, Mr. Mungunda (my cooperating teacher here) was teaching a social studies lesson. During this time I was floating around the classroom to monitor behaviors and beginning to mark some of the learners' exercise books. I looked over and noticed one of my learners, Jacob, with his head down on his table. I quietly walked over to him, rubbed my hand across his back and told him he needed to pick his head up off the table. I give my learners the option of sitting up or standing up (they must stand on a piece of paper and still participate as normal). Jacob slowly pulled his head up but it was clear he was quite sleepy.
About 5 minutes later, I see Jacob with his head down again. I had chosen to ignore him for a bit and see if he would pick his head up alone, but after another 3 minutes he was out like a light. Again, I quietly moved over to him and tried to rub my hand across his back to wake him up- nothing. I grabbed his shoulder and gently shook him- nothing. Finally, after a solid 15 seconds of me gently shaking him an calling his name, Jacob's eye flew open and I could see he was disoriented. Then come my questions.
I often ask my sleeping learners, even back home, if they have eaten breakfast , what they ate, etc. it usually explains some behaviors. I ask Jacob if he ate breakfast, "no miss" he replies. I ask him if he ate during tea break, "no miss" he replies. I ask him if he usually eats breakfast, "no miss" he replies. Then I ask if he eats dinner, to which he asks if I am asking if he eats at night and then gives the "no miss" response. At this point I am almost in tears and racking my brain as to what I should, or CAN, do in this situation. I ask Jacob when he gets to eat then and he replies, "When my grandmother gets to bring food home from work, miss." At this point I tell Jacob he needs to find me first thing tomorrow morning and I will give him some crackers to eat before school and during break, as I explain to him that it will help him stay awake during class. He quietly says he understands and that he will find me in the morning.
At this point, the school bell rings and all my other learners are beginning to pack up to go home. I still couldn't shake my uneasiness and worry for Jacob as I sat by him. I remembered that I had a granola bar in my bag from tea break. I asked Jacob if he was going to be eating tonight, "I don't think so, miss" is his response. Most of my learners had left, but there were still too many children around for me to give Jacob my food. I tell him to stay in the classroom for a moment as I walk to gather my things. The end of the school day is normally quite chaotic, as everyone wants a hug goodbye and to ask me a million questions. I finally get Jacob outside the classroom, where most of my learners are no longer around, and I pull out my granola bar and give it to Jacob.
The only response was a quiet but audible, "thank you so much, miss" and the bar disappeared into his pocket. He was about to cry, I was about to cry, and all I could think was how he was likely going to take the bar home and share it with everyone else he lives with. I reminded him to find me first thing tomorrow morning for crackers an he gave me one last, "yes miss" before leaving. And this is the moment I realize that I am forever changed by these incredible, absolutely resilient, beautiful children. I am in awe.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
This is VERY late being posted... But I thought I would post my week one reflection that was an assignment for my professors; it may interesting to read about my thoughts after the first week in Namibia.
I have been in Windhoek/Katutura for only a week and I feel as though all of my expectations are shattered, manipulated, and morphed on a daily basis. All the talking, reading, researching, and preparation for this week could never have provided me with an accurate expectation of what I have experienced. I am amazed at the people of Namibia. It seems that in general most Americans have the preconceived idea that we, as Americans, are disliked in other parts of the world. Thus far, I have yet to feel anything other than sheer excitement and curiosity from the people we meet. The Namibian people, from the small exposure I have had in this past week, are friendly, hardworking people who are proud to share their history with us and get to know why these twelve Americans are in their country. Similar to the United States, Namibia is full of diversity, something I had not quite expected. We had spent some time discussing the differing tribes in our meetings prior to departure, but I had not expected the diversity to manifest the way it does back home- distinct groups of people with diverse traditions, dress, language, and way of interacting with each other.
This weekend on the farm was one of the most eye-opening experiences for me. I loved observing the interaction between siblings, families, and the extended family on the farm. It seems as though each member of the family knew their place in the family and effortlessly moved around each other. I was in awe of the children in regards to their respectfulness and how well behaved all fifteen (if I counted correctly) of the children were. The entire time that we were at the farm, I never saw the children acting up or misbehaving. The moment any of the kids were asked to do something, there were no responses other than doing exactly as they were asked. It was also incredible to watch the amount of respect the children had for the elders, an evident tradition/expectation of the culture. As soon as any food was available to us, the kids would jump up and leave us so we could eat; I never heard a complaint out of any of their mouths. Going along with this, we all noted the amount of self-reliance and independence. The children entertained themselves, took care of themselves, and I never saw them complain or bother any of their elders. While the Herero culture is supposed to be patriarchal, from the power and influence of the grandmother on the farm it seems as if it is a matriarchal society disguised as patriarchal. I also cherished the experience of washing the dishes with McKenzie and Casey, near the other women on the farm. I gained a greater understanding of the culture and the amount of work that goes into being a part of the family. It also provided me with a concrete example of how giving the family is, as we McKenzie and I sat and washed all the dishes for the farm: serving dishes, personal dishes, and cooking dishes for an hour and a half. What a personal growth experience to actually put myself in someone else’s shoes!
Experiencing all these traditions has been quite meaningful and helping me understand the culture more and more. It was quite interesting to observe the parenting techniques of the parents of the children. From what I have seen, as I have said, the children are so much more responsible for themselves than in the States. The parents have the expectation that the children will take care of themselves and their younger siblings as needed. At one moment, we saw one of the young girls (3 years old) fall quite hard on to the cement. Back home parents/adults would have jumped up to see if the child was okay, but not here. No adults jumped up, no one checked in with the girl, no one even paid attention except those of us from the States that noticed. The girl got up, looked at her knees and continued on her way. I have also noticed these parenting differences in the neighborhood around the Wadadee House, as the children play and roam the streets without a parent in sight.
I am thrilled that I have been exposed to a different way of life once again. It never ceases to amaze me how different parts of the world live and experience their lives so differently than home. I cannot get enough of experiencing how others live in different parts of the world, and this trip has already exceeded my expectations. Over the course of this week, Namibia has become less of “Africa” and more of “Namibia,” and I cannot imagine how this place will be anything other than home by the time we leave.
Sorry about not updating the blog! It has been a crazy week and a half! This past weekend we went to Sossusvlei. Sossusvlei (Sossus is a Nama word for Dead-end and Vlei is a Afrikaans word for marsh, so it means dead-end marsh) is in the Namib Desert, one of the oldest deserts in the world, in the southwestern portion of Namibia. We didn’t go to school on Friday (January 25th), so we got up early and loaded up and took off for our adventure in the desert. I have been having my fair share of carsickness run-ins, so everyone graciously let me sit shotgun for our trip- the one downside of riding shotgun is that we are not allowed to sleep if you sit up front, so no napping for me. We took two cars, a van loaded up with the 9 students, one of the guides in training (James) and our driver/friend/guy works at the house we live in, Scobie (think Scooby, but say O instead of oo), and a second car that had our professors and our guide, Tickey (pronounced Tiki). We headed out of Katatura/Windhoek around 9:00- it was supposed to be 8:00, but everyone runs on Namibian time here. Our first stop was in Rehoboth, a smaller town about an hour outside of Windhoek. We briefly ran into the store to buy water and snacks for the road before briefly stopping for a bathroom break. Once we left Rehoboth we had about ten more minutes on paved, tar roads before we hit the dirt and gravel roads… for FOUR HOURS. About an hour after using the restroom and leaving Rehoboth I realized I had drank about two liters of water, oops. The next stop wasn’t going to be for about two and a half more hours, and the gravel road wasn’t helping. We FINALLY found a place where we could pull over to use a “bushman’s toilet”, aka a bush, but not before Tickey comes up to my window to tell me to listen for a “ssssss” sound of one of the top five most poisonous snakes. Thank you, Tickey! But no need to worry, I didn’t come across the snake in the bushman’s toilet.
We were on the road again, but now I could actually enjoy the scenery around me. I couldn’t get over how green and “mountainous” it was. I say “mountainous” because it isn’t like the mountains at home. Scobie told me that we were going to be driving by one of his favorite places in Africa. We turned a corner, pulled off to the side of the road and I am not even sure I could accurately describe what we saw. We were at the top of a mountain pass, looking over rolling, brown fields and into the distance were more mountains, accompanied by the shadow of the clouds that looked like water from the distance. Breath-taking. I could never have imagined seeing such beautiful places and scenery. This is where Tickey and James set up a table and began making our lunch. We had cabbage salad/coleslaw, sandwiches, and juice. Once leaving our lunch break, we loaded the cars back up and headed off for Sossusvlei. As we drove in, I kept pointing out the rain clouds in the distance, “Scobie, it’s raining over there”, “Look Scobie, rain!” and all the responses I got where, “Yeah Lyss, it might be drizzling over there.” As we are pulling up to the campsite in Sossusvlei, it starts raining, the wind picked up, and we were in for a desert storm. Fortunately for us, it didn’t stick around too long. Scobie took us to our campsites, while Tickey to our professors to the lodge.
Once we got to our campsites we pitched our tents and ran for the pool. Some swam in the very green pool, but I couldn’t see my toes when dangling my feet in the water so there was no way I was getting in. We headed back to the campsite and geared up for our evening hike. Tickey and Scobie took us to a dune and we began our hike up. This was the hike to prepare us for our major hike the next morning in Sossusvlei, so we could judge our abilities, set a pace, and see if we would even attempt the Saturday hike. We made it to the top, took out our cameras and began the attempts to capture the sunset. I have never been more frustrated in my life. I have yet to ever take a picture that accurately depicts what I am seeing when it comes to sunrises/sunsets here. We toasted each other at the top and Tickey gave us a history/science lesson on feature of the Namib Desert and the dunes. He informed us that the soil/sand the dunes are made up of our full of iron, which is why they appear red as the iron rich soil interacts with oxygen. The best part of hiking the dunes: coming back down. We jumped/ran all the way down the dunes after the sun had set and drove back to the campsite with piles of sand in our shoes. By the time we got back we were all hot and sweaty from the hike and James had finished making our dinner. We had game kabobs: Oryx, Springbok, Zebra, and Cow, curried veggies, garlic bread, and leftover salad. All of it was delicious. We all went to bed shortly after dinner, as our call time for the Saturday hike was 4:30am.
I thought I knew what hot was…. That was until I was trying to sleep in a tent in the middle of the Namib Desert. I don’t think I slept more than two hours that night. My alarm finally went off, I quickly put on my hiking clothes and tied up my sandy shoes before heading for breakfast. Tickey and James had provided us with cold cereal, yogurt, bananas, and bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I forced down some cold cereal and grabbed a banana and hard-boiled egg for the hike. The 30-minute car ride into the dunes from our campsite was the quietest car ride we have had yet. I think all nine of us were out cold. At a certain point vehicles were no longer allowed, so we took the suggest shuttle into the actual dunes (it’s either the shuttle in, or you have to walk a 5K through the sand just to get to the dunes… Jan said that just wasn’t going to happen). We arrived a Deadvlei (Dead Marsh) and started our first hike. We went up over two smaller dunes, we stopped at the first to take a picture of the sunrises, and arrived in the middle of, literally, a dead marsh. Deadvlei used to be a marsh that fell between some of the dunes before it eventually dried up, leaving a gray clay desert floor with dead trees that are about 600-800 thousand years old. It was one of the most incredible sites I have ever seen. It almost felt as if it were unreal. This was the point I stopped and thought, “I cannot believe that this is actually my life right now.” We stayed for about half an hour, taking pictures of the scenery, with each other, and simply relishing the moment. We couldn’t stay too long because we wanted to hike Big Mama before the sun got “too hot” (too hot is a bit of a relative term).
We hiked back over the two dunes, leaving Deadvlei in our tacks and caught the next shuttle to Big Mama. When looking at Big Mama, I thought there is no way I am actually climbing to the top of this thing. It was very high and I tend to turn very, very white with heights. But I was DETERMINED. I was going to make it. We hiked and hiked and hiked and eventually summated the dune. Again, I thought I had seen some beautiful landscapes before, but nothing compares to this. We all sat along the crest of Big Mama, looking over a dried up watering hole, a wild Oryx eating, an ostrich or two eating, other massive dunes, mountains in the background, I could go on and on. The red sand with the bluest of blue skies meeting on the crests. Unbelievable. We sat for a bit, catching our breath, taking it all in, enjoying each other’s company, and delighting in Namibia’s beauty. I was sitting next to Paula, as she leaned over and says, “And just think, you wanted to be in Mexico right now.” We both chuckled and I replied that this is clearly the place God wanted me to be and I am so grateful that Mexico was ripped out of my hands. There is nothing that can compare to this experience. Then comes the best part… running down the dune. You start with a jump or two, then you just keep your legs moving since momentum is taking you down whether you want to or not. We hiked back to our shuttle and headed back for the van. We drove from the shuttle area to our next dune, Dune 45. Dune 45 is one of the most photographed dunes in the Sossusvlei area. As a group we decided that we weren’t going to hike Dune 45, the heat was rising rapidly. We all got out of the vans and head towards the dunes for pictures and the next thing I knew, I was at the top of the Dune 45. I am not exactly sure how the group decision got made, nor where I was when it was made (because it really wasn’t), but we all hiked along like a gaggle of ducklings following their mother up the dune. Again, we ran down the dune as our professors laughed at us for hiking the dune we WEREN’T going to hike.
We got back to our campsite, hot, tired, and hungry. We all quickly grabbed our swim suits and some ran for the pool. Again, the pool was green and murky and there was no way I was getting in, so a few of us stayed behind playing cards and helping Tickey and James make lunch. James, once again, prepared a fabulous lunch for us. Shortly a couple hours after lunch we jumped in the van, headed to the lodge to grab Steve (my professor’s, Paula, husband) and head to the canyon near by, Seisreim Canyon. We hiked, once again, down into the canyon and learned about the history, geography, and function of the canyon. It was a neat canyon to see, and I’m glad we went, but it was poor timing. We were all hot, grumpy, and not into listening to Tickey go on and on about the canyon. Once we surfaced from the canyon, we got back into the van and headed back to our professors’ lodge. This was the most bizarre part. We had been hiking and hiking, a fabulous workout hiking gigantic dunes and down into canyons, yet we weren’t very sweaty. But as soon as we got in the car, we were dripping with sweat… I was actually quite concerned during our hike into the canyon. I was dying I was so hot but I wasn’t sweating at all, a clear indication of dehydration, despite the fact I had finished about 3 liters of water. We found out once we returned to Windhoek, that the temperature was 122 degree Fahrenheit, and our sweat actually evaporating off of us while we were outside in the sun. Thankfully, the women running the lodge agreed to allow the students to come in from the campgrounds and swim at the pool! This pool I would actually get into. For the next three hours we lounged in and around the pool, drinking water and the cold beverage of choice that PLU purchased.
Unfortunately, Scobie came to gather us all around 6:00 to take us back to the dreaded tents for dinner with Tickey and James. We arrived back to the campsite, stopping by the campground “store” to buy more cold water, wine, and a popsicle. Back at camp, I finally took a shower to cool down and try to get rid of all the sand that was sticking to my sweat, pool chlorine, sunscreen, and bug spray. After my shower, we ate dinner and headed to the campground “bar” for a cold drink before bed. By about 10:00, we were all dead; we had been up for about eighteen hours. I crawled into a very hot and stuffy tent, but was somehow able to quickly fall asleep from exhaustion. The next morning we woke up around 6:30 to get dressed, eat breakfast, and pack up camp. We were on the road by 8:00 to gather our professors from their lodge and head back to Windhoek. This was by far one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I still, a few days afterwards, cannot believe what I saw and I am in just in awe of the beauty here.
*I will go back and update about my trip to Northern Namibia as soon as possible. It was just A TON of information that I am trying to get all sorted through, so this was my update to tide everyone over until I complete that blog post.
|First small dune as we hiked to Deadvlei, watching the sunrise.|
|The view from the top of the pass, where we ate lunch|
|Deadvlei group photo: Jan, Nataly, Rachel, Suzy, Josh, Me, McKenzie, Megan, Kelli, Paula|
|Deanvlei tree: Natally, McKenzie, Me, Suzy|
|Top of Big Mama: Tickey is tossing the melon, Scobie is standing, and James is sitting|
|View from the top of Big Mama|
|Group photo at the top of Big Mama|
|The best picture I could find to put Big Mama in perspective|
|Hiking down the canyon|
|Running down Big Mama|
|Swimming at our professors' lodge|
Posted by Alyssa B. Johnson at 12:26 PM
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
First Day of School!
Yesterday, Monday the 15th, was the first day of school! Tasha, Nataly, Kelli and I loaded up in the taxi and headed off to school with Jan for our first day of school at AI Steenkamp. We arrived to school at 7:00 for the morning worship and devotion. By 7:20, we went outside for the opening ceremony. All the students line up, in their blue/white/gray school uniforms in the courtyard area (it’s all cement, but courtyard is the only way I know how to describe the area). This is the area that all school assemblies take place. As I walked out with Jan, since I was unsure where I would go with the reaction of the teacher I was assigned to the day before, I was snagged by Mrs. Somses. She said she wanted for formally introduce herself and shook my hand. She then apologized for the way she responded the day before, explaining to me that she had not been consulted about my placement, she is moving from grade 1 to grade 4 and doesn’t know the content, and she was really caught off guard. I completely understand her uneasiness with hosting me with everything else she has going on, but I was happy that she seemed to be warming up to me. The assembly began with the students, lead by one of the female administrators, began singing. They sang hymns, they sang the national anthem, and they sang a few other traditional songs. The principal got up and spoke briefly to all the students and informed parents that after the upcoming school board meeting, they would hold and Q&A meeting with parents about the Free Education Act. The next speaker was the school’s pastor. An older, thin man walked up to the podium and began his sermon. Now I cannot tell you a thing that he said, as the entire twenty to thirty minute sermon was entirely in Afrikaans. The integration of religion, 99% Christianity, in schools is astonishing in comparison to back home. After the sermon, the principal returned to the podium to go over her four rules, and expectations of the parents, at the school. Her first rule was for all children to be at school on time, between 7:00-7:10. Her second rule was for all students to arrive to school in the appropriate school uniforms and for the children to arrive clean. She emphasized the school is overcrowded, so it is imperative that the children are clean, clean, clean. Her speech floated in and out of English to Afrikaans, so there were pieces that I obviously missed. The third rule that she gave was for the parents to be invested in their child’s learning: keep them off the street, make sure they are doing the homework, and be sure they are studying. This was one of the rules that she spent the most time on, showing her investment in the children’s future and taking their schooling seriously. The fourth rule that she touched on was the importance of respect in the school. She told the parents to be sure that their children are well behaved, and that ill behaved students, disrespectful students, and bullies will not be tolerated at Steenkamp. The principal then called up Jan and the rest of us students to be introduced to the entire school and parents who came for the opening ceremony. We all stood on the podium as she introduced each one of us and then gave Jan the microphone for a brief introduction. The next part of the opening day ceremony is the most interesting: promotion. All the students return to the classroom from the previous year, here they sit and wait while role is taken. The teacher will then call the names of the students who had passed their grade and they line up, all the students who did not pass are publicly left in the classroom to repeat the grade while all the other students are walked to their new classroom. During this time, Mrs. Somses was unsure where she was supposed to go, her old classroom or her new one since she was changing grades. I told her that I could wait around with Jan and wander around while she figured everything out. Jan and I watched as all the students dispersed to their old classrooms, preparing for the big moment to change grades. After meeting some parents and children, all of whom seem to be interested in the Americans at their school, I finally found Mrs. Somses in her classroom. As I walked into the classroom there was an audible gasp as the students realized that they were going to have the American teacher in the classroom, a very big deal to most! Mrs. Somses took role of the newly promoted grade four students. This part was a bit of chaos, and I was asked to sit at the teacher desk during this time. At one moment, Jan came to visit with Mrs. Somses and she asked her if she was comfortable with me in the classroom. Thankfully, Mrs. Somses was entirely honest and admitted to that she really was not comfortable with hosting me (I say thankfully because I would rather have a cooperating teacher that wants me in her classroom and is excited for the support, than someone that is entirely uncomfortable with my presence). So Jan asked her if she would mind if I hung out in her classroom for the day so I could see how the first day of school works along with provide Mrs. Somses with as much support as I could. She said that it wouldn’t be a problem. We explained that the group of us would be leaving Wednesday (today) for the north and we wouldn’t be back to Steenkamp until the following Tuesday, giving us the time to find me a new placement. I hung out in the classroom for about ten minutes before one of the administrators came down and said that Mrs. Somses had an appointment with the principal and she needed to take her, aka: Alyssa gets to be in charge of the classroom. I thought, “No, problem! I have the book, If You Take a Mouse to School, a perfect first day of school book.” Normally, a meeting would be about thirty minutes, right? So I introduced myself to the students, explained where I am from in the United States, and the route I traveled in order to get to Katutura. As I had 42 students staring back at me, intrigued simply by my presence in their classroom, I started reading the book. I walked around the classroom as I read, trying to get close to as many students as possible and to ask as many questions to lengthen the time I could get out of the book. This “thirty minute meeting” ended up lasting about an hour and a half, when Mrs. Somses returned to the classroom, gathered her things, and left. Sooooo, I was now teaching the rest of the day and I had no paper, no pencils, chalk that didn’t work well on the chalkboard (Yes, chalkboards!), and only three books that I had brought with me. Talk about teaching by the seat of my pants. I finished the book and had the students turn and talk with the person sitting next to them, something I don’t think happens often from my observation of their uneasiness with it. I then taught some routines and procedures for my classroom. This was something I knew I needed to do in order to last through the day, but I also knew that I wasn’t going to continue in this class but I went with it anyways. I instructed the students on how I will get their attention, a call and response. I say, “Claa-aass” and the students say, “Yeee-ess” in the same tone that I do. The students responded quite positively to this and it worked wonderfully. I went over a few other procedures, sign language to ask for the restroom/water break, answering questions, etc. I started reading the second book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and about half way through I realized it was time for break. The students all stand behind their desks, say/sing a prayer and then exit the classroom after I exit first. In the staffroom, I quickly began trying to plan out what I was going to be doing with the students for the remainder of the day, as I had NO SUPPLIES with me to teach with. Tasha, the PLU student in the special class, told me that she had a small ball she brought with her if I wanted to play a game with the students. I went back to the classroom at the end of the thirty minute tea break and told the students that I was going to read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie from the beginning and they needed to pay close attention so they could be successful in the game afterwards: I had decided to play a comprehension/silent ball game with the ball Tasha gave me. The game worked well and it ate up more time without school supplies for the students. I had the students talk in groups of 3-4 to compare and contrast the two mouse books that I had read and explain which one they liked more and why. The students throughout the day were on their very best behavior and I was happy to see that the seemed to be responding well to me, my positive reinforcement, love, and encouragement. I had my students take a brain break and we did some classroom stretches/yoga to get some blood flowing and stretch out their legs after a long day. I had one last book, Giggle, Giggle, Quack that I read at the end of the day. Again, I asked lots of questions throughout the book to extend time and to maintain their interest in the book. It worked well and the day ended. It was quite successful, despite having next to nothing to work with at school. At the end of the day I had my students line up and told them I wanted a handshake/high five/or hug from each before they left: I got a hug from every single student. Talk about a rewarding day! By the time we got back, we were all BEAT. We all took a nap, got up and went out for dinner at the famous Joe’s Brewery for one of the best dinners. Once we got back we had to back for our week up north, as we are about to visit the cheetah foundation, Etosha national park, the tent schools, and traditional Himba villages. Phew, that was a lot! I hope you made it through all that!
Posted by Alyssa B. Johnson at 1:33 AM
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Teacher Workshop Day
We have been having a lot of evening thunder/lightening storms lately, which causes our Internet to go out, which is why I haven’t been able to update my blog since I made it.
All of the PLU students went to the schools they would be doing there student teaching for the teacher workshop day on Monday, January 14th. Kelli, Nataly, Tasha and I are placed at AI Steenkamp (pronounced like steen-comp). We arrived to Steenkamp at 7:30 for the start of the meeting. Everyday teachers are at school, the start their day in the staff lounge with worship songs and a brief devotional. Their singing abilities are amazing- they sing, harmonize, break out solos/duets/etc, clap, dance, it is absolutely beautiful! We sat in for the first meeting with the whole staff at Steenkamp. The principal went over some of the expectations of the teachers; preparation for classes (aka actually planning) is a new expectation of the teachers that will require them to show that they had planned for the day in one way or another. The Ministry of Education in Namibia just created the Free Education Act. Prior to this 2013 school year, the state schools could, and did, require parents to pay a fee for their child to attend the school. As you can imagine, this kept a number of children out of schools because they simply could not afford to pay the school fee, buy the school uniform and provide their own school supplies. Steenkamp used to charge N$250 (250 Namibian dollars) per child at the school. This act makes it illegal to require students to payy fees to attend schools. The government will also provide some of the school supplies: paper, pencils, books, toilet paper, and N$109 per child. Since this is a new act for the 2013 school year, the principal spent quite a bit of time explaining how this would work and what it would look like for the first day. And since the school is losing N$141 per child from the new act, the principal is also pushing for the parents and staff to make donations to the school to help make up the difference. They were also preparing for a number of disgruntled parents due to the Free Education Act, but we had a hard time understanding why… After this meeting dispersed, we needed to see the principal so we could get our placements- always a rough time to try to get in to see her as the procrastinating parents wait to register their children for the school. A teacher, Mrs. Fontain, who said that Tasha was going to be working in her classroom grabbed Tasha, almost immediately. Kelli, Nataly and I waited in the office to see the principal for a while before Mrs. Fontain came and grabbed us as well and told us she would keep us company while we waited. We went to her classroom and helped her set it up, moved furniture, laid down the carpet, covered tables with tablecloths, etc. Mrs. Fontain, a teacher for over 30 years in Namibia, had quite the stories to tell us. It was nice that the four of us got to sit and chat with her while we waited for the principal to have a free moment. After about three hours, we went to check in the office to see if they were ready for us. The secretary said to give her ten more minutes and then we would be seen… an hour and a half later (they function on “Namibian time”) she was finally ready for us. The principal is thrilled to have us in her school. She thinks we are the experts; she wants to learn from us and have her teachers learn from us as well and all she wants is for all of us students to have the best experience possible in her school. She then provided each of us with a name of a teacher to meet with: Nataly in grade 3, me in grade 4, Kelli in grade 5, and Tasha with Mrs. Fontain in the “special classroom” (special education students). The secretary took each of us to our classrooms so we could meet our teachers (at this point our cab is supposed to be picking us up in 1 hour). We drop Nataly off with her teacher first, a women who is thrilled to have her. Then we dropped Tasha off with Mrs. Fontain again, before realizing my teacher is missing. We found Kelli’s teacher, who kind of blew her off and gave the impression that she was not interested in having a PLU student in her class. This is when we found my teacher, Mrs. Somses. The secretary and I walked up to her and the secretary tried to introduce me to her… but Mrs. Somses wasn’t having it. They spoke to each other in Afrikaans, so I wasn’t able to understand exactly what was being said, but she clearly didn’t want to have a student in her class. So the secretary and I walked back to the office and she checked in with the principal about my placement. It was confirmed that I was going to be in Mrs. Somses class, so the secretary took me back once again. This time, she was VERY upset. I still hadn’t even received an introduction, and I still couldn’t understand a thing she said, but it was clear by her body language and tone of voice that she was NOOOOT HAPPY to have a PLU student teacher. She stormed off and went straight to the principal’s office. By this time, we had 10 minutes before we had to leave. So I didn’t get an introduction and had NO IDEA what I was supposed to do, what classroom I should go to, what I should prepare, nothing for the first day of school.
Kelli and I talked with our professors, Jan and Paula, as soon as we got back. They both explained to us that this was very typical, and that often the teachers are intimidated by us: we have great English, we have more teaching skills, and it makes their problem areas stand out more. They told us not to worry and Jan would come to school with us to make sure we got everything figured out on the first day. We also knew that the pre-primer (Kindergarten) teacher had told the principal, THE DAY BEFORE SCHOOL STARTED, that she was moving schools and would not be at Steenkamp any longer. Jan and Paula made a friendly wager that Kelli and I would be the teachers for the pre-primer class on the first day (if we did, they would buy us a drink at our dinner after the first day of school and if we didn’t, nothing!). Both Kelli and I felt better after the conversation and began compiling books and construction paper that we could use in the scenario that we would team teach the pre-primer class on the first day and went to bed.
Posted by Alyssa B. Johnson at 10:18 PM
Monday, January 14, 2013
That's it... I give in. Everyone, or at least almost everyone, in the group is blogging their adventures in Namibia. And since most of the group seems to be regularly updating their blogs, it seems as if I will also be able to spend my time updating my blog... or so we can hope! But please be patient with me as our internet is touchy and occasionally decides we are not allowed online, therefore my blog may be sporadically updated with several posts at once!
So here is my, "Alyssa's Adventure in Namibia" blog... You are welcome, family and friends who have been begging for this!:)
PS: I took the picture in the background of this blog... Yes, I got that close to a real life giraffe!