Today was my first full day at Libala Basic School. Being that I had to be there at 7, I woke up at 5:45 to give myself plenty of time to make it there the first day (on time of course!). When I got there, I figured out school actually didn’t start till 7:30 which will be nice for future days but it was kind of interesting seeing the morning rituals at the school. There is no such thing as custodians or anyone who cleans the school grounds, instead the children themselves keep the place clean (maybe American students should follow on this one…). However, when they arrive at school they grab brooms and help clean and dust the classrooms (as the classrooms are open) then dust the dirt that surrounds the entire school, picking up litter and such along the way. The students just pitch in without being told. Those who aren’t cleaning run around and play. The boys especially come early to be rambunctious and such before school starts. When the teacher (the lady I’m working with is Sister Mary) arrives, they form a line to get their hygiene checked before entering. She inspects their teeth to make sure that they are brushed along with their nails and hair to make sure they were properly groomed (to help minimize the spread of disease)… very interesting. If a student was not properly groomed, she had a hard, plastic piece of tubing that she would use to gently whip their fingers… ouch. If a student arrived late, they were expected to knock then wait to be greeted by the teacher before entering. The students were then often mocked for being late… definitely different from what our school system allows.
School went well today-first subject was math where we finished learning about multiplication. We ran through a problem on the board, then a student lead a problem and they were given five to work on during class. Then I graded all of the problems and returned their work to them. After just a day it is clear that there are definite problems with their education system. With only one teacher for more than 50 students, they definitely aren’t getting the attention they need to learn concepts such as multiplication. As I graded, I found that there were a few students who turned in their work right away, complete and correct. Yet, on the other spectrum there were many students who turned in their work once the twenty minute time was done, incomplete with barely anything written. Many others attempted the seemingly simple problems yet got all of them wrong. There is a large gap in the learning between the students and Sister Mary told me that is the biggest challenge as some children understand the material and are ready to move on while others are completely lost. We are suppose to start division on Thursday but there is little hope for those who are completely lost with multiplication—so those students just seem to fall more and more behind like a snowball effect. Sister Mary explained that this was one of the biggest problems associated with the large student to teacher ratio and very evident while grading… should be interesting to see how division goes!
Talking about large classes, there were 47 students crammed into a small box (aka our classroom). Fortunately for 35 of them, they got to sit at desks, although they were squished, for the three hours they were in school. For the other 12, they sat on a tarp in the front of the classroom. Once math was finished, we moved onto science where we are learning about forests. Although I know little about forests (as I clearly have had such an experience living in one in Nebraska… kidding), I looked at the material beforehand to “prepare a lesson.” The material isn’t difficult obviously, and the extent was that about 1/3 of Zambia is forested area and that forests are very useful for a number of reasons. The last subject for the day was English where the students learned more vocabulary dealing with objects such as brooms, tables, chairs, etc. I have a feeling this and very similar material will be about what we cover in the next few days while I am here with them.
Once my particular class (grade 4) was finished for the day, I went and helped out with an all-boys grade 7 class… they definitely had a lot of energy and talked quite a bit, making their teacher quite upset. To quiet the children, she literally smacked them with the chalkboard eraser and used a stick to “warn” them… wow. Evidently rules differ just a bit between what is acceptable in America and what is acceptable in Zambia. Even though I do enjoy the teaching and tutoring for the kids, I think it is even more interesting to just see the differences that exist between the two cultures, especially regarding education… and let me tell you, there are many!
The rest of the day was pretty relaxed. I got dropped off in the city where I looked around at some shops before heading back to the hostel for a bit of relax/music time by the pool. I met an awesome lady from Belgium, Jasmine, and her friend from Zambia, Elijah, and the three of us had about a two hour chat about life and such as we laid out by the pool—very, very wonderful! Most of the people here at the hostel are travelers and always have interesting life stories or something to share! I also got on the computer to check email and such and weird enough I had a particularly strong connection—first time ever! And luckily, Becca Lange was on so I got to skype and see her face which definitely made my day! So good to have a bit of home and normalness in my life… and of course catching up with her! I ate dinner here at the hostel and it was a traditional African bbq meal… so, so delicious!!!
Tomorrow is African Freedom day which means HOLIDAY! And no school… so sleep-in, layout by the pool, and heading to a festival here in Livingstone. Thank-you for African freedom! But anyways, without the need to get up early, I’m thinking it may just be a Disney movie night ( yep 🙂 … ) so I’m off to watch that and relax a little bit!