Secondary Workshops
on Marika VSO-ing in Namibia (Namibia), 16/Nov/2010 14:45, 34 days ago
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I returned from the Waterberg hike refreshed for a week ahead of preparation for my Secondary workshop. With help from other volunteers for a serious of tedious filing and cutting tasks I set myself, I felt more readily prepared for this week’s workshops but also a bit nervous knowing that my audience would be more challenging, which was good after all. I had a fair amount more I wanted to get through than with the Primary teachers so I had to force myself to be more selective in what I presented. Unfortunately the attendance was much worse than the Primary teachers, and this was contradictory to the fact that my invitation letters had longer to reach their destinations. In fact, on the whole, only the minority of teachers/schools actually received their letters and most just seemed to find out by word of mouth. Although, I tried to ensure the dates did not coincide with any other events, despite the supposedly bad time of year it was on (most seem to favour workshops at the beginning of the year) I also considered the possibility that my age and gender might have had an effect. With an older and proportionally more male crowd in the secondary sector and the contrasting levels of success I felt I have had with women and men, it could have had an effect or there could be many other reasons I am unaware of, of course. I found this week more satisfying and enjoyable on the whole, perhaps as a result of my familiarity with some activities, or with my broader variety of activities, but mostly I think from the more fruitful, honest and maybe even feisty discussions that came from the teachers.The most eventful of the 3 days was the last day, Friday. On Wednesday evening, as I was winding down over the Zambezi I was tracked down by the Department of Protocol (a department no one is ever really sure what they do, but turns out seem to managed logistics and formalities), from the Ministry of Home Affairs offering me a different conference venue for my workshop due to the arrival of 4 expected Presidents (Namibia, Zambia, Botswana&Zimbabwe). Fortunately I didn’t sense the pressure I expected, held my ground using the reasoning that I’d arranged these dates months ago, I wouldn’t be able to notify the teachers, I had already compromised twice for the United Nations conference, also late booked and so on. Initially he completely refused to allow usto share the space in which there were 2 conference rooms, but then I think he saw that I wasn’t budging and we compromised on a shift in rooms used from lunchtime onwards, I would reduce my space and the funniest thing was the need to have our doors locked with guards standing in front for the entrance and exit of the Presidents and the duration of the meeting that only ended up being an hour or so. The excitement was heightened s both teachers and myself were caught peering out the windows at the sight of any commotion outside, including Robert Mugabe’s helicopter that was hovering above at one point. After their speeches at the Sports Complex in town, it turned out Mugabe would not be joining us at the conference centre.So, the week ended on an exciting note, I felt that the staff would be relieved to see the back of me and my regular demands, although they drastically became more willing knowing that I was working with the teachers of Caprivi. It was funny hearing comments from the teachers who had never been to this lodge before in all their years here and hopefully enjoyed the luxury for the day. Did I spoil them in an unsustainable act? Yes probably, as I don’t have to follow it up and saw it as my kind of Grand Finale, but I hope I haven’t caused any deeper damage. Again, I was frustrated by the complete lack of attendance from the AT (I thought the venue would at least attract their curiosity if nothing else), but still no sign, even after referral to their line manager, Senior Education Officer Robert, who is a wonderful man, but doesn’t really have the ‘control’ he should have over the Advisory Team. As the circuit Inspector Joy said, it’s more important that the teachers received the information/skills. As I review/transcribe the teachers’ feedback forms, I find myself getting a bit frustrated as I did at times during the workshop when they request things to be given to them on a plate. What was most surprising was the belief also mentioned during the workshop, that ‘black’ learners here are clearly not as intelligent/capable as the ‘white’ learners they viewed on some of the clips I showed them from teachers tv examples and on top of that, that the ‘bush’ learners are also not as intelligent/capable as the ‘town’ learners. Aside from these and a few other comments, the feedback felt very positiveand worthwhile as a whole. I now think about the possibility of a follow, that I do not have the chance to do here and wondered if I took this (now prepared) and did it in another place early on in a placement, how the follow up would be. Cynically maybe, but here I think it would be much tougherthan elsewhere as I hear other volunteers talk about projects flourishing much more in other locations in comparison to Caprivi. I can see better where the Caprivians get their reputation that even the rest of Namibia seems to comment on.So the last couple of weeks have been highlighted by the now regular evening rains, thunder and lightning storms significantly cooling us. I’m loving the company of my new housemate Michelle, a really positive influence, intelligent and full of knowledge, and also prepared to deal with all bug incidents including the dead rat we had to remove yesterday. We’ve enjoyed international cuisines together with the volunteers on various nights before the mass exodus of volunteers (ok, so only 4 of us) begins next week, Frisbee in the rain and just general good company. I celebrated the end of my workshops together with Katie’s suggestion for her second to last weekend, by camping at ‘Bum Hill’ campsite. Awesome for its simplicity, peacefulness, yet borderline precarious as we are the middle of an area with copious amount of elephants very close and all the other variety of wildlife to be found in the region. As fortunate as Waterberg though, no close encounters other than a couple of Impala sightings. Most spectacular were the tree platforms at the top of the ladders where we could pitch our tents for a view over the Kwando River, much less of a problem for the rains we camped under.I returned to Mavuluma as I hadn’t been for a while to my pleasant Principal and the mostly welcome staff, but also to the frustrating one word answers of the Maths teachers on being asked again for their thoughts on my workshop. The Grade 8&9’s start their end of year exams tomorrow up until the 2nd December and I’m now looking at my 3-4 weeks ahead and wondering how they will be filled as the opportunities to work with teachers in the context of classes reduces and I now might just leave it down to contact they initiate. I will start to direct my thoughts on wrapping things up here, sorting references, packing, planning for the approaching holidays and the big ‘what next’ forcing me to review my CV and start with the daunting job-hunting procedures.I will not fail to mention here, fellow VSO volunteer’s ‘Dave’s Boring Blog’ that has made it to the 47th world’s best blog. A great entertaining read including a good description of our passed volunteer conference. Following from this conference, sadly we received an email informing us that our Director has made the difficult decision of closing VSO’s Education Programme in Namibia amongst others such as Disability and Secure Livelihoods, mainly due to a reduction in funding from DfiD. A heart-sinking feeling sets in.