“Dear god, please let the mandazi and milk chai win them over”. A pointless prayer – partly because, as a friend would put it, I’m not ‘saved’ so He’s probably not listening to me anyway and seriously, it’s what they have for breakfast everyday anyway. “Here kids in the UK, here’s a bowl of Kellogs’ – make me your leader”.
But man, had I prepared. The lesson was colours, the theme was rainbows. Unable to find a poster of a rainbow I’d painted one; people were looking for the Care Bear behind it. I trawled the internet for lesson plans, games, and robbed the teachers I work with of their ideas. I had learnt the Tanzanian Sign Language (TSL) alphabet, knew both the Kiswahili and TSL for the colours and general basic communication. A poster of a boy in pants had been correctly labelled with his body parts thanks to friends and the Askari at my place, who got stuck watching me cut everything out one evening as I was hot indoors (interesting guy – apparently he used to protect the Tanzanian Prime Minister Nyerere). AND, I had the big bag of mandazi.
So, why nervous Kirst? Are you kidding me? I’m not even teaching in my THIRD language! We are working with a ropey fourth. And my worst nightmare came true – no, I wasn’t in front of the class naked; the usual teacher stayed to watch me… with a pen and paper in his hand.
But once I started…
They were amazing! As the teacher had forewarned me, they had little-to-none reading or writing skills. This is so incredibly sad, not just because of their age but also because many of them were in their second year of school – what had they been learning in the first year? It quickly became apparent that the 7 colours lesson objective needed to be broken down into just 3 colours: red, yellow and blue. They didn’t know the TSL, the English or KiSwahili for these so we focused on the signs and English that lesson.
They were so enthusiastic and engaged! Most things were practical, both because they were young and I think it’s the best way to learn (current teaching method is to copy off the board). We played, we coloured-in (felt tips were a huge hit) and by the end of the day most of them were recognising the words for the colours and rainbow and were able to fingerspell them beautifully. We now have a big display on the wall of the colours they have learnt, the Care Bear rainbow and all the pictures they did – they were so proud of them, everyone had to have their name written on.
Any difficult bits – only one, when the children passed me a stick and I asked what it was for and so they showed me… I made it clear that I would not be using the stick and the shock on their faces was pretty disturbing. I’m more of a ‘reward the good behaviour’ kind of gal.
So on we go. I only had half the class today for various reasons but I’m told there’s more coming. I think colours is going to be for a while and I have a friend coming to work with them for an afternoon doing painting and Amy is going to support me to write the lesson plans… I really want it to be a success. I have plans for reading books, proper paints, TSL kids’ dictionary for each of them (I’ve seen it and it is brilliant!) – basically whatever I can get my hands on to make this fun and a positive learning experience.
I’ve set up a just giving page as a number of people have stated they’d like to help out and any donations for resources would be great as there is literally NOTHING at the school. Food will go towards the food and chai every week, teaching materials, paint, glue etc. It’s via Forever Angels as they are supporting my project. Also, would love to hear from anyone doing similar things or who has any advice to give – karibu your comments.
So I’ll keep you posted. Next week we’re moving on to orange, purple and green…