The Gods Must Be Crazy
18 July 2003
4TH OF JULY
To celebrate the fourth of July, I taught my ninth
graders some “traditional” songs like Yankee Doodle and also the Star
Spangled Banner using a cassette tape my aunt sent me.
They loved it. But
explaining our independence was a bit problematic.
“Since today is Independence Day in the U.S.,
we’re going to listen to some traditional songs.”
“Well, sort of…”
“Who colonized you?”
“Well, we got independence from England, but…”
I tried to explain how it was like the Europeans colonized the Native
Americans (killing most of them in the process) and then got independence for
themselves. It wasn’t working so
I tried a different approach. “Imagine
when the Germans came to Namibia that they killed most of you and then got
independence from Germany. Do you
They understood all too well. They
looked at me in a different way. For
a brief moment I was no longer their teacher but a colonizer.
Namibia got independence from apartheid South Africa
in 1990. Everyone knows someone who
was personally involved in the liberation struggle. My learners can tell me stories of the atrocities committed
against their parents and grandparents under colonial rule.
Somehow American independence doesn’t seem very noble compared to
Nonetheless, we had some of our fellow volunteers
over for a 4th of July braii. Since
there’s not much to do around here, we pretty much just cooked food and ate
THE GODS MUST
To my infinite delight, I
have discovered that the lead actor in The Gods Must be Crazy is a Namibian.
Or was. The way I found
was that he died and so the newspaper was full of articles about
“Namibia’s most famous actor.” He
has an interesting story. He
lived the traditional bushman life (as portrayed in the movies) and before
staring in The Gods Must be Crazy, had only seen 3 white people.
The movies made him rich, but he didn’t really know what to do with
the money, so he left it lying around in his hut and most of it blew away or
was eaten up by hyenas. After his stardom, he returned to his traditional way of
life, although he did have some cattle and farm a little bit.
He died on a trail near his hut with his bow and arrows, as he had gone
out for hunting. The autopsy
reported that he died from TB.
CRACKDOWN ON LEARNERS
The principal has been gone for the last week.
We don’t know why. While he is away, the two HOD’s (head of department) are
acting principals. Evidently they
are on some sort of power trip and have decided to arbitrarily crackdown on
learners. It all started when I was
watering my plants and 2 boys from 11B came over to ask if they could write
their test that night rather than the next day in class as scheduled. At first, I thought they were just over exuberant learners
who were so excited about the test that they couldn’t wait one more day (the
kids here like taking tests. I’m not sure why since they usually do poorly).
But I decided to question further, so I asked, “Why do you want to take
the test early?”
“Because we are being punished, Miss.”
If this kid was in trouble then there was no hope for the world.
He even looks like the cherub his namesake implies.
“Gabriel, how did you get in trouble?”
“No Miss, I was just sitting on the boards.
Everyone was sitting there. It was only me who got caught.”
“You were sitting on the chalk boards?
How do you do that?”
“No Miss. It
was the…the boards….” Here he
resorts to sign language and I figure out he means the shelves that go along the
wall of the laboratory classrooms.
“Ah ha—so you were sitting on the shelves.
Now why can’t you take my test tomorrow?”
“Because we must go home.”
“You have to go home now?
For how long?”
“Ah Miss, it is very far.
It is just for maybe one day.”
“Why do you have to go home for only one day?”
“It is to fetch our parents.”
“Oh, so you go home and get your parents and come
He seems relieved that I have finally understood.
“Now Gabriel, what if your parents cannot come?
What if they are busy?”
“No Miss. They
cannot refuse. I cannot come back
“And why must your parents come?”
“Miss, so they can discuss what punishment to give,
like weeding or digging or something.”
I try to pretend like this makes sense.
“Ok. I will go and write
the questions. Just wait a minute
and you can take the test.” Hesekiel, the kid with Gabriel, has been silent the whole
time. He was one of my dear little
plagiarizers and has been sort of afraid of me ever since.
While they write their test, I am working on the timetable, which is
being redone, again (it’s a weekly event around here as teachers are always
coming and going.) But while I’m
sitting there, it occurs to me that all this would be much easier if the boys
were just able to call their parents, rather than waste the taxi money to go
home, not to mention the classes they will miss.
But the school only has one phone, and no one besides the secretary is
allowed to use it.
The next morning is even worse.
One of the HODs comes in to my first period class, 11A, and takes at
least half the learners out. Luckily
there are no interruptions in 2nd period, 11B, since they are
writing their test. 3rd period also goes smoothly, although I notice a
few people missing. 4th
period I have 11B again, and the other HOD comes in and asks for Uugwanga Sam
(the other plagiarizer). A
few minutes later the other HOD comes and asks for Uugwanga and Hesekiel. The class tries to explain to her that those two have already
been removed, but she seems convinced they are lying. As the afternoon goes on, I notice many kids absent.
From 9B, two boys come in and ask to see my point sheet.
It is the list of school rules with the appropriate number of penalty
points for each offense. They
find their offense on the list, and say that they should just get points, not
be sent home. What can I say? It
is unprofessional to undermine another teacher’s authority, so I say
nothing. But it was unfair. Apparently they were all being punished for various petty
offenses such as being outside the classes during class time (they were
outside because their teacher wasn’t there).
Some other boys were in trouble for being outside the dining hall.
All of these things happen all the time, these teachers just decided to
crack down now. And even then,
they should just give the kids points, not make them waste scarce money to go
home, then waste their parents time and money to come to the school.
It was absolutely ridiculous. At
the end of the day, I walked through the administrative building and there was
a line of disgruntled parents forming, all ready to hear about the serious
offense of their child. What a
waste! I just hope that every one of those parents tells the HODs
that they have wasted their time and money and complain to the principal when
Zac’s dad came to make an HIV/AIDS documentary
about Namibia. He came with Jay, a
cameraman from Elon University, and also Vaino, a Namibian from the Ministry of
Broadcasting and Information. They
had arranged several interviews in Ondangwa but also did a few interviews with
some of our learners. The kids at
our school had a great time meeting all these important people and becoming
movie stars in the process.
On Saturday, we all went out to Anand’s homestead
to get footage of a traditional Namibian home.
Anand lives a three hour walk from the tar road (18km) so we wouldn’t
normally have the opportunity to go out there.
His family demonstrated all of the doings of their daily life: cooking,
pounding mahangu, dancing, etc. I’m
sending you a lot of photos from Anand’s place so you can also see some of
On Sunday, Jay was kept busy with
the English Club who did an AIDS drama/movie. Monday night he went to show the movie in the dining hall
after evening study. But there
was some big fiasco about the kids pushing in the door and then a teacher
beating the learners. Jay and
Vaino witnessed all this and were quite upset with the teacher for beating the
learners. Unfortunately I
didn’t see it, so I can’t give you a graphic account of what happened.
This is the same teacher who was sending learners home to get their
parents just for minor offenses.
Click here to find out more about the
documentary they made
We only have about a week and a half of teaching left
now, and then it’s exam time. I’ve
put all my effort into teaching my grade 11s Things Fall Apart, so I haven’t
done much with my grade 9s. I
really like teaching literature, but it’s hard to get enthusiastic about
teaching the “2nd conditional” to grade 9.
Elon University, where Zac’s dad teaches, donated 4 lap
tops to our school so we are going to start training teachers on using them, and
then hopefully start teaching the learners.
The principal asked Zac about the computers today (because we haven’t
set them up yet). He wants to lock
the computers in the safe. Apparently
he is afraid that if people can actually use the computers, they might steal
them. Furthermore, we both have
full schedules now, so I don’t know when we’re going to find time to do all
this extra teaching. As it is, we
are both doing school work up to 9pm. But
the teachers are eager to learn and Zac and I want to share the joys of
Microsoft Word, so somehow we’ll find a way.
Things have a magical way of working out around here.
It’s still pretty chilly here, but the temperature
is creeping back up. The weather
here is the opposite of Ohio. In
Ohio, the weather can completely change in a day, whereas here it is constant.
The only difference is if it is windy or not, or if there are a few
clouds in the sky or not. The dry yellow grasses are disappearing and the sand is
reemerging, resulting in dust storms if there is a wind.