A Very Productive Day

“Education is the greatest engine for personal development.” –Nelson Mandela.

 This morning Androi and I had an early breakfast, courtesy of Mama tone.  Then we left to arrive at Pommern Secondary School by 7:30 in time for the first classes. Androi worked with the headmaster and maths teacher, Mr. Shadrach. I went with Mr. Arbogast to the Form 1 class to work on basic English.

kids at thier best time in class 081The lesson this morning was about clothes (or as the locals pronounce it, CLO-thehs) and colours.  I brought crayons from the supply cabinet at the mission house, and some students brought items of clothing from their rooms. We hung a cord up in front of the classroom as a clothesline and arrayed the clothes on it.  We went through the items one by one:
Me: What is this?    Class: T-shirt!
Me: What colour is the T-shirt?   Class: Black!

 There were shorts, athletic pants, my pink rain jacket, a soccer shirt with stripes, a backpack or “bag”, socks and rubber sandals. So now the students know the word ‘flip-flops’.  We had a good variety of colours also.

The next exercise was more difficult as the students were asked to re-arrange the letters in the words for different items of clothing, some of which – like hat and coat and dress – we hadn’t had on our clothesline.  The teachers went down the aisles and corrected errors on the students’ work. They did better with the colours, which were easier.

After the tea break, we had a second double period of English, this time with Mr. Lephaid and me. The lesson was “What did you do last weekend?” which was designed to help them with past tense. Before we started we did a quick rendition of “Head & Shoulders, Knees & Toes”. During the free period we had made several drawings of stick figures doing various activities: cleaning the floor, doing laundry, going to church, playing basketball, shopping. We reviewed those with the class. The students had to answer questions from the text about the activities of the imaginary Juma, and then discuss and write down what they and their classmates had done for the weekend.  We helped with corrections until I had to leave for lunch.

In the afternoon, Androi had to return to school to grade some math papers from Form 4.  I had a chance to visit with Mr. Shadrach. He received his Master’s degree from Dar es Salaam University two years ago. He told me how he became headmaster in 2009 after having been second master at another Lutheran school in Iringa region. He said on his arrival he found the school in bad financial shape and with declining enrollment. Gradually the enrollment has improved and he is working hard to help the students prepare for the mathematics exams. Partly this is because he loves math and wants to inspire the students, and partly it is because if the students raise their average performance on the national exams it will help attract more students to the school.  We also talked about the challenge of getting the students to read more, and helping the Maasai girls who attend the school to be allowed to continue their educations. He explained how difficult it is for the school to adjust to frequent policy changes from the Ministry of Education that require the school to purchase new textbooks so the students can pass the new exams.

He also asked me about my work and family.  I told him many of my students in India were also learning English as their third language after the regional language (Oriya) and Hindi, the official language, so I have some idea about what a big challenge this is.

 Edward and his crew got the water system to work today, while Mohammed fixed the car and installed a new toilet tank in my bathroom.  So everyone had a productive day!

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