Upper Primary Workshop
on Marika VSO-ing in Namibia (Namibia), 24/Oct/2010 21:18, 34 days ago
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After the distribution of my invitation letters I spent the first whole week pushing paper. I couldn’t believe how many people, signatures and approvals I had to go through to actually make use of the already-confirmed funding from ETSIP. Confirmations and re-quotes of booking the venue, a minimum of 3 quotes from stationary shops (I only knew of one stationary shop until this week), signaturesof approvals left, right and centre, printing paper and materials shifted to and from the print room. Luckily the Regional Offices (Ministry of Education) is close to my house and my frequent visits weren’t half as bad as the commute that I used to do to Mavuluma, worsened by the current heat.I’m continuing to enjoy not having to frequent the school so often, yet I make an appearance every so often.I put a fair amount of energy into the Grade 5-7 workshops for the Upper Primary teachers. Even though I'm assigned to Secondary, so much work needs to be done at the lower Grades too, I couldn't help intervene here too. 3 days: Monday, Wednesday and Friday of the week just gone, 79 teachers of which some were Principals(out of the 80 I was expecting), 5 circuits and overall, I can confidently say a success, even if it did mean I had been working 3 consecutive weekends in a row. Having set myself up with a luxurious venue, the conveniently nearby Protea lodge, I was able to create a comfortable environment all inclusive with projectors, air conditioning, good food and overall a relatively good service with just one power cut. Although I feared this treatment cannot be‘sustained’ after I leave, as I was just doing a one-off event, I thought may as well make the most of it and treat these teachers to a comfortable day. Who knows, maybe it will affect their motivation? (Although I don’t think I’ll be able to answer this question in my time here) I was congratulated for my turnout, as it is often not so high, and I realised that many letters did not reach their destinations but word of mouth did the work for me, again probably spurred on simply by the venue. The 3 groups varied greatly with the Katima circuit being the most responsive/open to discussion, and the last 2 circuits (Chinchimane and Ngoma) made me feel like I was pulling teeth. The day focused on classroom practice, with mixture of a bit of Educational Theory underlining my advocating of the 3-part lesson, including, starter activities, using the outside environment to support teaching, learners talking to each other, the main things I felt are lacking in lessons I am observing. As well as the sharing of ideas and varied activities I was getting teachers to participate in, there was also an opportunity for teachers’ own reflection and debate on teacher centred vs learner centred practices. A lot of my preparation time was taken up by making and putting together a large number of resources for the teachers again the un-sustainability of this initially bothered me a bit. Would this be dis-empowering as it goes against what I thought I’d be doing here i.e. working together with teachers to create their own resources? But then, having realised that this hasn’t really happened until now as no teacher has been willing to put in the extra time required for this, and reflecting that I as a developing teacher received many resources from colleagues in my teachingcareer which I use and help inspire me. So I thought, it’s a last opportunity to give what I can as my term here draws to an end, so it can at least hopefully inspire, sustainably or not.The feedback was very positive and even from the 3 Peace Corps that attended on the last day. The only hiccups being that in the beginning of the week, I was competing for space against a United Nations conference happening in the next room and taking over the spaces I requested. The biggest let down of all was the Upper Primary Advisory Teacher. I wasn’t that surprised at his lack of involvement, but my optimistic side continues to hope on his good intentions. On the contrary, since notifying him of the event, my plan, inviting him for his involvement, and despite my daily appearance in the AT’s offices of which his is one, he managed to stay clear of me in the whole lead up to the conference. In catching him off guard one day, he started reeling off excuses about his car having problems and how he had to go to Rundu to repair it twice...blah blah blah...(I seem to have acquired a habit of tuning out when people start giving a seriesof excuses). The most frustrating was not just the lead up, but he didn’t even bother to attend any of the 3 days, even with the prospect of a good lunch and he is the one person really in need of some of these skills/ideas whose job is to disseminate to teachers an run these workshops. He thencontinued to say, “Oh there’ll be next year” (!). ‘A law onto himself’ as the other AT’s describe him...grrrr! How is nothing done about people like this? How are they still in the system when their attitudes clearly prevent any progress? Why is it unfortunate that both the Maths AT’shave this worst attitude in comparison to the other AT’s? Should VSO be re-thinking their partnerships when there are people like this we are put to work with?Aside from workshop talk, the last fortnight has been filled with the pleasant arrival of the new Peace Corps volunteers, who are once again placed out in villages out in the bush (brave kids!). I celebrated the end of a hard-working week with a night out with friends dancing in one of the precarious clubs of Katima. I think it was flattering to receive the comment that‘you don’t dance like a makuwa’. We cooled down on the weekend with visits to ‘Stone City’, the part of the river near the bridge that crosses into Zambia where the waters are croc and hippo free due to the stones/rapids. Really cooling and fun for a swim, but sadly not reaching its potential as its not maintained very clean, partly due to the alcoholism Caprivi is renowned for.The natural highlight was our visit to see the Carmine bee-eaters nesting. By the banks of the Zambezi further out of town, in a place called Kalizo, there are hundreds who have created nests in the soft sandy bank of the river, by burying 1-2metre holes in the ground. Amazing to see so many together at once boasting their beautiful colours. See my new picture and video additions!