School Slowly Starts
22 January 2004
Ekulo Senior Secondary School is
now open for business! With baby
steps and halting lurches the 2004 school year is slowly building steam.
This week we might even get around to teaching some lessons.
For those of you who hate getting homework on the very first stinkiní
day of school Namibia is the place for you.
I can remember being very, deeply depressed at the end of summer
vacation, one day Iím free as a bird and then WHAM:
25 pounds of books, early mornings, and all the teachers saying how hard
their class is going to be. Well
not here, no sir, in Namibia learners are taken through a carefully planned
transition period where, while they are at school and have to wear the uniforms,
they donít get slammed with any reading or note-taking.
They just get to hang out all day in and around the classrooms to regain
their confidence and slowly get acclimated to the learning atmosphere once
again. Now doesnít that sound
nice? Instead of the dreaded and
barbarous first day there is a nice relaxed first week (or two). Here is a day-by-day account of what has (and has not)
Thursday, day 1 for teachers:
Greeted the other teachers and met the new science teacher.
Sat in the staff room all day reading and talking.
I also set the staff computer up, ostensibly so that the teachers could
Friday, day 2 for teachers:
The principal finally beats a path through the parents trying to get
their kids into school and we get to have the meeting that we spent day 1
waiting for. In the meeting the
principal tells the teachers to work on doing the year plan done (when to have
the parent meetings etc.) and decide what job each teacher will have in the
learner registration process.
Monday, day 3 for teachers;
day 1 for learners: Most of
the learners arrive at school; the first thing they need to do is register. We,
the teachers, had a short meeting and then moseyed on over to the dining hall to
start the registration process. I
remembered that last year we had a problem checking to see if returning learners
had lost any books (there were several unorganized handwritten pages full of
names) so this time I volunteered to make a nice list in Excel.
The registration went fairly smooth.
The new learners (mostly grade 8 and 11) had to be registered as learners
at Ekulo (their names matched to the list of admitted learners), pay the school
fee and the cluster fund fee (two different lines), and finally allocated into a
class. Returning learners just had
to pay the fees. All learners in the hostel also had to register and pay the
hostel and medical fee (three more queues).
This lasted until about 5:30.
Tuesday, day 4 for teachers;
day 2 for learners: Same as Monday, except less busy. The learners are getting settled in the hostel and lounging
around the campus in groups.
Wednesday, day 5 for
teachers; day 3 for learners: In
the morning we started the great allocation battle.
All the teachers have a pretty good idea of what they will be teaching
this year but there is a bit of uncertainty.
Every teacher has classes they know they will teach but since these
rarely fill up their schedule, the teacher is also given an assortment of other
classes that they are qualified for. The
unfortunate teachers are stuck with a full load of teaching and/or many
different preparations (a math teacher can write one lesson plan for 8A, 8B and
8C, but would have to write three if they taught 8A, 9A and 10A).
Anyway, the principal sets up the initial allocation and then the entire
staff meets and tries to solve any problems that they see.
Everything was going well but the meeting stalled when we got to Typing.
We are phasing out Typing and replacing it with Keyboarding_and_Word
Processing. There was a hang up
because we had to call the Inspector to see if we could handle the
transition the way we wanted to. Also,
since we lost two English teachers the allocation is very tight and we canít
progress if we donít know this one piece (think of one of those puzzle games
where there is one empty space and you have to slide around the tiles until they
make a picture.) So the meeting
adjourned without finishing and the teachers went to register some more learners
that had collected. The learners
wander around some more and maybe get a classroom key from a teacher.
Thursday, day 6 for teachers; day 4 for
learners: The teacherís wait
all day but the continuation of the allocation meeting never materializes, I
assumed that the principal hadnít gotten a response from the inspector yet.
A few more learners are registered.
Learners sit in classrooms all day.
Friday, day 7 for teachers;
day 5 for learners: No meeting
today. I am not sure exactly how it
happened but I got the register class that I wanted (12B, the class with most of
the learners that Sera and I have a good rapport with).
Learners talk things over and play some cards. I work on getting a timetable program working.
And so goes the first week of
school. As soon as we figure out
the class allocation the next step will be doing the timetable. The
timetable is the document that tells the day and period when each lesson will
take place. It usually takes several days to complete by hand but I think
I might be able to get a program to do it for us.
I found out that I will be
teaching two classes of grade 12 math, two classes of grade 8 math, keyboarding
and word processing to grade 8A, and several PE classes.
I am very happy about everything except the PE.
The keyboarding and word processing class will be taught in the old
typing lab on some Linux computers that we are getting from an organization
Seraís grade 11 English
learners that are now in grade 12 are going to be taught by Mr. Iipito in her
absence. The grade 11 learners that
Mr. Iipito would have been teaching now have no teacher.
(In addition to Sera we also lost an English teacher named Mr. Teofelus, so
there arenít enough English teachers to go around anymore).
We did gain a science teacher
though. So the learners that
didnít have a science teacher last year will now have Mr. Lazarus.
He will also teach some math, in fact, he will teach the grade 11 math
(which I taught last year) so I will be working with him a lot.
He just graduated from the University of Namibia and he is a very nice
guy; I think he will be a good teacher. The
only downside is that he is constantly proselytizing -start some small talk with
him at your own risk. He will bend
almost any conversation towards religion and/or the bible. The teachers are all more or less very Christian anyway but
he sometimes gets into a lively discussion about some detail.
Actually, I was interested at first to hear Namibians talk about religion
but as it turns out the conversations are about the same as they would be in the
States (or anywhere else where two Christians might argue about how the other is
perilously misinterpreting some part of the Good Book).
In other news, my father
is on his second trip here to Namibia. He
arrived on the 12th, spent a few days in Windhoek, stayed at Ekulo from Friday (the 16th) to Thursday (the 22nd), and is now
in Opuwo. Last time he only brought
one person to help him but his time he came with five. Three of them are students and two are technical guys from
Elon to help with recording and producing sound and video. My
father is the director of Project Pericles at Elon University and two of the
students are in a related honors program and are Periclean Scholars.
The two trips have incorporated interviews with Namibians and people in
Namibia relating to HIV and AIDS. He
has also filmed a lot of footage to record the culture of northern Namibia. The goal of the project, as I understand it, is to 1) produce
documentaries about the impact of HIV/AIDS in Namibia geared towards raising
awareness about the problems faced and what needs to be done to solve those
problems and 2) produce cultural documentaries, and Namibia/HIVAIDS experts (the
Periclean Scholars) that will be used to educate the students at grade schools
in North Carolina about Namibia and HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
The trip was paid in large part by a grant from Pfizer, which makes drugs
to help HIV/AIDS patients. He flies
out of Namibia on the 30th. While
they were staying here at Ekulo they, among other things, they set up a laptop
with a projector and speakers and let the learners watch Bruce Almighty
Tuesday night and Finding Nemo the next night.
The learners really liked the movies and the dining hall was mostly full
for both movies.
went with him and his group to Etosha and spent the night at one of the resorts. It was fun to go with him and I tried to guide him to where
the best places to see animals were. The
big news is that we got to see a cheetah! He
wasnít chasing down any springboks but he did walk across the road for us.
We also got a good look at a few lionesses.
The funny thing is that we saw them walking through one of the rest
areas. Yes, as in, ďI really have to pee, but I guess I should
wait for the man eating wild animals to clear the area first.Ē Most of the rest areas are fenced in, but not this one.