Six Months in!
on Susan Somers (Namibia), 24/Mar/2010 08:20, 34 days ago
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I’ve just passed the half way point of my placement and suddenly time has begun to fly!January and early February were a bit tough. It was hard to go back to work after the Christmas break– the January blues can strike even in 30 degree heat of the African summer! January has always been one of my least favourite months and I thought being away and having good weather would change that – it didn’t! The trip to Rundu was a nice break but work was slow and there were no plans togo anywhere as everyone was broke – very like an Irish January really!By mid February things picked up again. We had lots of birthdays (and therefore parties) and some of the other volunteers came to Okahandja for a weekend (in which a ridiculous amount of alcohol was consumed!) We then spent another weekend making a movie (I sometimes forget how much fun you can have with no money!) we went camping at a local lodge (that had a lovely pool) and I even treated my self to a luxury weekend (I hired a car, did some shopping and had a pedicure!)! The next thing I knew it was March!Work has gotten busy again (mainly due to a lack of proper forward planning; deadlines that I never heard about just suddenly come up!) We finally finished the grade one version of‘the bloody manual’ and have sent it out to other Education people to look at it. I also suggested we give it to some actual grade one teachers to see what they thought – this ‘novel’ idea was greeted with enthusiasm. We’ve now started on the grade two version, but this should be much easier as I have a much better idea of what I’m at and what teachers need. Most of March and April will be taken up with devising schemes of work to help grade two teachers plan their teaching.The maths curriculum still continues to be an issue that I can’t really do anything about except try to convince Alina that it needs a serious review and overhaul sometime in the future! By asking her to use it to come up with a scheme of work for a year she is really starting to see that the curriculum asks far too much of the students. They jump from addition/subtraction in the range of ten (e.g 3+5=8&8-4=4) at end of grade one, to addition/subtraction with renaming in the range of 99 (e.g 27+38=65&62-37=25) in grade two, with no real work on place value or developing strategies for basic addition or subtraction. And don’t get me started on the fact that they start learning their multiplication tables in the same year! [There’s my rant for the month finished!]I also did another workshop with local teachers. I picked a bad day so it wasn’t as well attended as the first one but I taught them some action songs and rhymes and gave them cds of the songs when they left which made them very excited! We also had an unexpected trip to Khorixas (in the isolated north west) to do some classroom observations and I got the opportunity to dosome more workshops. Again teachers were very enthusiastic but of course it will take more than a workshop for a few hours before they can make any big changes to their teaching. Teachers here need lots of support, continuous reminding /demonstrations/training to build up their skills and confidence before they can really change the way they teach.The trip to Khorixas was very useful as it continues to build my understanding of what its like in an Namibian classroom and the challenges teachers face. In one school I even got to take over the class and do some teaching! However it was hard to work to play language games with them as they were used to just repeating everything the teacher said as a chorus! It took ages to explain how to play Simon Says. I also met my first scorpion in my accommodation (I’m not sure who was more scared!)St. Patrick’s Day was pretty strange here as Namibians have only the vaguest idea where Ireland is, and most think its part of the UK (but so do some Europeans I’ve met!) I suppose they are probably about as familiar with it as most Irish are with Namibia! They’ve usually heard of Guinness or U2 or one of our more famous exports and lots had even heard of St. Patricks Day. It was even used as part of a Carlsberg promotion in one city pub (“Go Green on St. Patrick’s Day!”)To celebrate I wore a green dress on the day, forced some other volunteers to go out for a few drinks (on a Wednesday!) I also ended up teaching some NIED staff how to do some Irish dancing! They picked it up incredibly quickly since almost every African I’ve met are fantastic dancers and singers. They had to perform it as part of a team building exercise that week and, naturally, my team won!Last Saturday was Independence Day (20 years) here which meant a long weekend (20th -22nd) There were celebrations in the capital and, on Thursday, we went to a cultural song and dance show in the National theatre. For the weekend itself 6 of us hired a combi and hit the road! We travelled 1600km in 3 days taking in ancient rock art, amazing desert scenery, the skeleton coast, ship wrecks, a seal colony and a burnt mountain. There were some difficulties along the way (losing beer to the Atlantic ocean, falling over a disgusting dead seal, almost running out of petrol miles from anywhere, sea mists and some people going stir crazy in a confined space!) but it was a great trip!So now with only 3 months left in my placement (and 5 months left in Africa) it seems like my‘year out’ will be over in no time! However my sister and her husband are arriving tomorrow – which means more holidays and travelling so I’m certainly not complaining right now!