Two trained teachers, NuHu and Simone had quite the shock today when I showed them how far behind other schools these students really are. I was watching NuHu tell the students he would teach them internet next week, “Do you understand?”
“Yes, Sir, we understand.”
He says, “Good, then you will learn to use a mouse. Do you understand?.”
“Yes, Sir, we understand.”
I said, “Excuse me, may I speak?”
“Someone please tell me what you just understood.” No one raised their hand. “You all said you understood, please tell us what he said.” Again…silence.
NuHu’s face was dropping and he clicked his teeth in disbelief.
“How many of you know what a file is?” No hands.
“How many of you know what a word document is?” No hands
“How many of you know how to type?” Only 3 hands went up, and they were students who were in my class two years ago when they drew keyboards on paper.
After some more questions, I asked, “What did you understand?”
“We understood that when Madame is here, we must not say we understand if we don’t understand.”
NuHu stood with his jaw dropped. I said, “Don’t be disappointed, otherwise, you will be disappointed every day here.” We stood outside the classroom when he said the students should have learned all of this in Primary 3.
I said, “Well, they didn’t. This is where they are and this is where you must begin.”
I had this conversation in depth with NuHu and Simone, the science and math teacher. When I told Simone that it is important to make sure all of the students know how to make electricity with their dry cell batteries, he looked at me and said, somewhat bitterly, “They should have been taught this in the Primary School.”
I informed them that it is clear that the Primary School teachers are not even teaching the students English, let alone the other subjects. The students are, “Yes sirring and We Understanding” all day long and the teachers are accepting it.
It took awhile to convince Simone that this is an opportunity for him and all of the teachers here to create their own schedules and syllabus. “You may not ever get to do this again in your career. You must take advantage of this time and teach in the way you think they will learn and not what some schedule or syllabus tells you. We have permission from the higher ups to do what we want.”
It is quite amazing to be given this permission to teach however we think they can learn rather than follow some old formula that hasn’t worked for these kids since the schools were built. I emphasized to the Primary School teachers how important their roles are in building a foundation of learning. I let them know that having children who cannot speak any english by the age of 7 or 8 is not okay. All of the teachers, “Yes mammed” me. We will see what happens.
With the birth of the “READING GROUP,” perhaps the readers and listeners will improve their skills. The Junior High students will read to the Primary students. I had 3 days to teach them how to read out loud to a group. Eye contact, intonations, ask questions to engage and consult a dictionary when needed. Some did better than others, but only one boy had a good understanding of how to decipher a word. I ended up teaching phonetics. Who knew?
Things are winding down although we still have Sex Education, Gentle Handling in the lower school and a meeting whereby 2 students and 3 teachers will speak to some parents, elders and other administrative Poo Bahs. They will talk about how this teaching and learning will improve the students’ abilities to comprehend and perform better. We are hoping at least one student will pass the tests with high enough scores to go on to Senior High.
Julius,the head teacher is totally supportive of the whole program and said he would keep encouraging Simone to “trow da sylleebus ayway.”
It is a great honor for me to be given carte blanche at the school. Both weeks, Ayamdooh and I could walk into any classroom at any time and teach. There was no red tape and no proper channels to wade through every day we showed up. Pok believes that in 3 years time, this will all catch on naturally. We pray that he is right.