Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Number 16

While I’ve written quite a bit about my experience at WEECE, most of the crew at CCS is working at pre-schools around the Moshi area and it has been really interesting to hear about their placements. Here are a couple of examples of what my friends are experiencing:

Lu Dao Montessori Pre-School - Derek and Natalie are working at Lu Dao teaching pre-school. One of the things they noticed when they arrived was that the floor was dirty, the tables were dirty, and the kids were dirty….all the time! Derek and Natalie worked with the students and teachers and showed them the importance of cleaning both the school and themselves. They even made up a song that will remind the kids to wash their hands after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing or sneezing. The kids have really caught on, and love washing their hands now!

Bridge Pre-School – Kasey and Amy are at Bridge Pre-school. They are in our van everyday so we see them get dropped off each morning. The best thing to see is when they arrive at the gate, all of the kids arriving at school crowd around them, grabbing their legs and hands, chanting teacha teacha (teacher teacher). Although they get annoyed with it after their day is done, I think it is pretty cute.

Magareza – Brando, Ashley, and Lara are teaching pre-school/kindergarten (ages 3-6) at Magareza. One of the most interesting things about this is that Magareza is a prison across the highway from Karanga, and the students are the children of the prison workers. Some of the prison workers live on the prison grounds, while many commute from other villages.

I’m not sure if all prisons in Tanzania are this way, but many of the prisoners are allowed to walk around the entire prison grounds during the day. Around employees’ houses. Around the school children. All dressed in orange. Most of them are doing work such as landscaping and farming, and most are accompanied by a guard with a gun, but not all.

It’s not unusual for Brando, Ashley, and Lara to be outside with the kids while surrounded by prisoners doing work. Brando mentioned that last week Mama Hilda, the head teacher at the school, was carrying a large ax so she could chop some wood. Brando, being the gentleman that he is (Brando – I get free drinks for saying that, right?) offered to help Mama out. Brando did not have very good wood chopping skills, so one of the nearby prisoners started laughing and offered to help. It took him about five seconds after he handed the prisoner the ax that “Holy Sh*t….I just gave the random prisoner next to me an ax!” I thought that was pretty funny.

The stories about their students keep me entertained. There’s Little Kanye….who looks like a miniature version of the real Kanye. Then there is the boy named ‘God.’ Can you imagine your response if you asked a 4 year old boy what his name was and he replied ‘God?’

Finally, as a whole, for some reason the students at Magereza were never taught the number 16. When they count, they say 14, 15, 17, 18, 19….The past three weeks have been a challenge trying to teach the kids 16. With two days left of placement, about 60% now remember 16.

All of the volunteers at pre-schools/kindergartens have mentioned that although the students can count in English, and say their ABCs in English, they do not know what the letters or numbers look like. They can recite verbally, but they don’t really understand. It would be very interesting to learn more about education methods in Tanzania. We had a guest speaker come in last week to explain the education system (i.e.Primary School, Secondary School), but we didn’t get into methods of teaching. I see some of the same at WEECE. The students and employees can recite quite a bit, but many times they have no idea what they are talking about.

Overall, I think each of us here at CCS will be leaving knowing that we all made a positive impact. Whether it is the one on one attention given to the pre-schoolers to help them learn their letters, or the concept of budgeting and saving that we are giving the girls at WEECE, I hope we made a difference in at least one person’s life.

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