Liz Rose (VSO Teacher/Adviser for ZAP): Latest blog from Jambiani

The time is going so quickly. Nan and Simon Oliver go at the end of the month, after 6 months here; I will miss them horribly. They have worked so hard and achieved a great deal. Nan has done wonderful things with the sewing ladies and her English classes with Standard 2 (about nine years old) are a joy. The children have really progressed under her care and the junior school teachers have started to copy her methods – which is just what we want. Nan has made some incredible posters for her lessons which I would like to frame but I shall have to settle for storing them carefully for the future. I will certainly use them with my school classes later on. 

Simon has worked steadily with Form 1 and deserves a medal for battling against the odds. The text books presume that the students can put a sentence together - but few actually can. Both teachers that have worked alongside Simon have expressed their appreciation and tell me that they have learnt new ways of delivering their lessons from him. I shall miss finding him in the library, slaving through a mound of marking ( about 60 books) yet always ready to listen to my moans. We have all spent a lot of time sharing problems and working out ways of dealing with them.

I am teaching maths to Form 1, and I have the same problem as Simon in that the text books require a much higher level of English than the students possess but it is slightly easier to deal with it in maths. Generally I team-teach in Form 1 and so my partner translates for me. It works well and we now have 2 classes of students that work independently and who are definitely making progress. When I first started, one student would do the work and the other 5 around them would copy. Getting them to work independently has been one of the main tasks and to do it we resorted to setting tests where each student on a table (3 at each) did a different test. That shocked them into working rather than copying. We even have some students now who are getting enthusiastic about the subject!

I also have a junior class for reading and we are doing phonetics and having stories and songs. I really enjoy it as I have rarely had a chance to do these things before. We battled through the story of the Enormous Turnip (in Kiswahili and English) and we managed all the repetitions with great enthusiasm. We have a steadily increasing repertoire of songs including “Ten little Octopus” and “Brother Juma, Brother Juma, are you sleeping?” I am about to pick up a reading class with Form 1 and Form 2 students - so no doubt they will also be heard around the school warbling away! We do a form of Buzz. “One, two, three, anasema (he says) buzz” with clapping and arm movements. They love it. Trying to explain the usual method of playing “buzz” was completely beyond me but one day we’ll learn to do it properly.

School is from 7.40 until 1.15 and although that does not seem long, teaching classes of 50 to 60 with few resources is tiring. Generally I teach 6 out of the 8 periods though by period 8, both the students and I are staggering. 

Outside of school, I have two community English classes. They are great fun. Recently I inherited some students from a teacher who had returned to Europe and my classes suddenly became mixed - rather than ladies on Monday and men on Friday. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the change, but we are settling back down as a group and I am enjoying the new dynamic. In the school classroom, the students work in same-sex groups but this lot seem quite happy working in mixed groups. In fact I get the impression that there is a lot going on that I am not quite getting. Plenty of smiley faces.

ZAP has provided a lot of textbooks this year but there are plenty of subject areas that are trying to cope without the prescribed textbooks. It is very difficult. The students cannot afford to buy books, the ministry does not provide them and the school does not have the money. Jambiani is better off than most but it is a long way from being adequately funded. I am continually being asked for money for books and furniture by the school staff because the school cannot afford to provide them.

I am surprised by the poverty. Jambiani looks quite affluent with its large holiday homes scattered along the beach. The houses, which belong mainly to Europeans, have water and electricity as well as beautiful balconies and verandas. Yet in the village, many of the homes are without either electricity or water and quite a few need new roofs. So many of the children come to school in torn or dirty uniform because they simply cannot do anything else. They all wear shoes in school (mainly plastic flip flops) but out of school, they go barefoot. The teachers are paid very little and all of them have to have second jobs. I come home and rest whilst most of my colleagues head off to their fields and work hard in the heat of the afternoon. Our librarian was complaining the other day that she had to go to collect firewood after work, which meant a long walk of several miles and with a heavy load on the return. Most of the villagers cook outside on wood and so wood collecting, like water carrying, is a part of all the women’s lives.

I have my washing done by a woman even older than me. I know that each morning (when low tide) she goes out into the lagoon to do seaweed farming. It is unpleasant and heavy work for which she gets paid very little. She returns to look after her grandchildren and whilst they play, she makes rope from coconut fibres (coir). Whenever I see her, she is working. Her house is spotless yet she has no water and no electricity and cooks outside on wood. She washes my clothes sitting on the ground by the tap in my garden, using two washing-up bowls.

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