Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reflections...Primary School...

Reflections on Teaching...Thanksgiving far from Home...
Chritmas Tree in Front of Apt.(red one)

As I stood in Lecture Hall # 2 watching my class come in for the exam it occurred to me that this scene could be repeated anywhere.  However, it wasn't; it was in Dodoma, Tanzania in a start up Christian university running on far less than is needed. As I walked around the room for test monitoring three lizards greeted me out one of  the windows.  They had  been sunning themselves in the late afternoon sun on a few rocks near by. Now that you would not see in Denver, Colorado even in the summer. Strange I think, here I am on the eastern side of Africa in a dusty town of 350,000, teaching at a small university that hopes to educate students with a Christian foundation in Humanities, Nursing,  Geography, Sciences, and Theology.  In general teaching here is harder but the rewards of getting to know your students are greater.   Most of my students must ride a local bus transportation system which is always breaking down, they have no computers or memory/flash drives and more rely on photo copied notes or hand written notes for studying. (come to think of it so did I when I went to college). More often the class is hot (4:00 pm) with no screens just open windows and most of the time my power point presentation projector will not work correctly. . But with a stroke of good luck and prayers my lectures usually start within 5 to 10 minutes and end on time. 
 Most faculty work 70 plus hours a week, teach very large classes in an effort to offer the students the courses they need to stay on schedule and graduate on time.  The biggest bottleneck now is reliable printers to make master copies of tests, notes, and handouts. 

The photocopy situation is very good as we have several heavy duty copiers that usually do not break down.  Printers are another story!  Also the internet out of Kenya is not always reliable and can be off hours at a time, interfering with faculty and student's research for assignments.  Personally, we use Vodacom, a wireless broadband system.  It is expensive for here, about 45.00 U.S. per month but has unlimited use.  So... as I watched, I thought about the difficult logistics to get the exam ready to give to 130 students.  After they were seated David helped me distribute the exam.  He had to be stern with a couple of students about talking and looking at each others test.  He gave them the option of one of them moving or both of them out the door.  A big problem here in the secondary schoools where these students come from do a "Talk and Chalk" approach because of limited resources.  As a result the study model for students is to memorize the material and write everything they know for each question, often not fully understanding it meaning.  I graded all 130 tests, and believe it or not, they all made at least a passing grade.

This week is Thanksgiving week and its hard  not to think about it.  What we are doing is having a Saturday evening dinner for all of the missionaries and us, plus a few other invited guests, about 20 people all total.  No turkey, though, as they are only available for Christmas here.  Chickens are having to do, plus a pork roast.  Chickens, well, they are not very big, even those we bought at Two Sisters Grocery.  Hopefully there will be enough.  Everyone is bringing a traditional dish fixed the way they prepare it.  Should be fun.  Last night the Carrs had a belated birthday dinner for me and his wife who had a birthday this week.  We had three kinds off pizza, none like the U.S. pizza, but very good!

This week David and I went out to a k-12 village school (see pictures) and we were impressed with the eagerness of the students to learn even though the school had not windows or doors in some cases and 1100 hundred sudents wearing dingy, torn, and too large uniforms in most cases.  The average number of students in Primary was between 60 and 70 per class.  In secondary, about 40-50.  This is a government school, not private.  Private schools have better materials and equipment and teachers are paid more and tend to remain with the school long term.

 It is an understood fact that if someone with a white face visits, they assume you have lots of money to help their school. This is because so many agencies are trying to help Tanzanians in many areas, it gives that impression. The first  thing we said was we are not missionaries, not from an international agency, but just volunteers.  We have no agency supporting us.  We only have at this point services to offer.  Some disappointment but we discussed other ways we could help and it not cost much money.  Visiting classrooms (see pictures) illustrated why it is chalk and talk.

 The students have a cheap notepad they write down everything the teacher puts on the board, often have to repeat the information in unison, yet they are very eager to learn.
 In the English class, Primary level 3, students introduced themselves (10 students picked at random). Their English pronounciation was excellent.  The teacher is doing a good job with viturally nothing to work with!

David has finished writing the Master's in Special Education and it is ready to be reviewed by the various university committees.

 I am sure it will need some amending, but the plan is to send it on to the Tanzanian Ministry of Human Services and Education for hopeful approval. 
The special education course for undergraduates he wrote will be offered in second semester (March 2010).  While an optional course, he hopes he doesn't have 400 students enroll as there is a great deal of interest.

No word yet on our computer and phone.  I can only assume they are gone forever.  Every once in while I get a little sentimental over the loss of my mother's pictures and our oldest son's wedding pictures. But we now back up all our photos and data we type.

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