Tuesday, 20 January 2015

My First Day at School

Well, I loved it! There were lots of positives along with some challenges and plenty of things to improve on. I can already see that in this job I will be learning on the go for a while! A two minute walk to school in the sunshine is certainly a great way to start the day though. School starts at 7.30am here so earlier than at home, but it means we are finished by 1pm.

One of the best moments of the day had to be our arrival at school. It was 7am and most of the children were already there. As soon as they saw Rosie and I approaching, several of them ran over to hug us. Running with such force, they very nearly knocked me over! The children grabbed the bags I was carrying - a watermelon and oranges for the weekly snacks - and insisted on taking them into the classroom for me. I carried a watermelon! (that comment only makes sense if you’re a Dirty Dancing fan!).

Porridge for breakfast

In true African style, the lady who comes cook porridge for the children’s breakfast was late, so breakfast and the rest of the school day ran late too. My teaching began with phonics and then activities for learning through play, quickly immersing me into Key Stage 1 teaching! As most of my previous teaching experience has been in Key State 2, I do have to keep reminding myself that my class have only been at school (and learning English) for a year. However, I am pleased that I will be spending less time marking!

As with any class, the first few days are all about building relationship and making assessments. This was rather fun since I wasn’t always sure all the children understood what I was talking about! Songs worked well though. They even sing grace before eating at snack time as well as before breakfast.

Snack time in Grade 2

The majority of the children live in difficult circumstances. Many are part of the ‘Arise’ project which was set up to support orphans and guardians living in the local community. Some are ‘single orphans’ which means one parent (the breadwinner) has died and others are ‘double orphans’, which means both parents have died. Often grandparents or aunts take in children from their family to live with them. Some of the children are considered particularly vulnerable and this can be due to a number of reasons such as having HIV or an alcoholic parent. A couple of parents of the children are even known to have murdered their partner.

Although health and safety and risk assessments can be over-the-top and at times seem a bit ridiculous in the UK, thank goodness there is a system for child protection. There is no such system here in Zambia and such situations just seem to be ignored, as if they don’t take place.

Smiles from Victor

Alice feeling proud of herself

Joy concentrating hard!

From what I have seen so far within this culture, the expectation is that children learn by rote and understanding is not prioritised. The government school tend to fit sixty (or sometimes many more) children in one class so they often lack thinking skills and problem solving skills because there is little or no opportunity to apply them. Here it is acceptable to shout at other people’s children and some young people carry some huge responsibilities for their age.

Having visited some of the houses where the children live here, I personally think it is pretty amazing how they come into school in the morning. Most come with a clean uniform (even if their shoes are falling apart) and are usually keen to learn and to please.

Angel who can almost spell his name!

Purity practising her writing

Comfort reading a story to a dolly

Our school Kapumpe is very well-resourced compared to schools in Ndola. Many containers of books and equipment have been sent over from the UK and Denmark, where Kaniki University Bible College links back to. It is limited compared to schools at home, but overall I think the classrooms are a good size and provide great learning environments.

Victor again!

Cowboy Comfort!

Skipping is a popular activity at playtime

Grade 1 and 2 classes are situated within the completed school block (building work on the next one is currently underway) along with the school office and the Arise office. It means it is a place where many people come to ask for help or collect provisions, waiting on the benches outside my classroom. With the temperature being so warm, our windows and classroom door remain open so I hope any waiting visitors enjoyed the stories I read to the class at the end of the day!

I wasn't the only one who found the first day at school tiring. These two Grade 1 children were hard to wake up!

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