A Miracle

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This week a miracle happened.  280 Sharp scientific calculators arrived at our school.

Thanks to a dear friend Dale, who busted her butt to get the donation from Sharp Canada and then arranged the shipping, they arrived by air in a 95kg crate on Thursday.  And believe me, it was the talk of the village!

Up to now, calculators have been a major issue for my learners.  Very few students can afford their own calculator.  For most villagers, the cost of a calculator, N$120 ($17 cdn), is more than their weekly income.  And so, the kids are forced to share the calculators that myself and past volunteers have purchased for the school.  During tests and exams, they are sharing 1 calculator between 9-10 students.  Naturally, this makes success in advanced math very difficult.  Imagine doing a trigonometry test without a calculator!  And with their exams worth 70% of their grade, success is IMPOSSIBLE without one.

So, when I announced to the grade 8,9 and 10 students that they would each get their own calculators, they cheered and clapped.  One learner approached me after class and said “Madam, now that we have our own calculators, math will be easy!”.

We have decided to charge each learner ten Namibian dollars ($1.50 cdn) so that they have some responsibility and ownership of them.   We will use the money raised to buy much needed toner for the school photocopier.

 

Mr. Kaputungu (new math teacher) and grade 8A crowded around as the crate was opened.

Words can’t express how thankful I am to Dale (and her husband,Dan) for their desire to help and the effort put forth to make this happen.  They have helped achieve something very rare:  making success a possibility for these students.  And I am so fortunate to be involved!

Grade 8B using the calculators in class 🙂

 

Sitopogo Fashion

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Yes, even in a small African village, with little contact to the outside world, my students have their own idea of style. And with limited finances, they have to be creative!  Thank goodness they wear a uniform!

• Boys wear one pant leg rolled up.

• Boys wear nail polish – blue, orange, red.

• Socks and sandals (even with thongs) is never out of style.

• Jelly bracelets

• Jelly shoes

• Girls wear grey knee socks and then different coloured ankle socks on top

• Small stickers on your face, ear lobes or finger nails

• Anything from your mother or father’s closet – like a white satin blazer – even if 3 sizes too big or small!

• Anything neon

• Frilly, plastic hair bands – even though they have no hair!

• Trench coats

• Hats – toques, berets, visors – you name it

• Hoodies with ANYTHING in English written on them

• Bedazzling their uniforms with metal paper fasteners

• Rosaries as necklaces

And the teachers….because they get paid quite well, they are able to own decent clothing. I am definitely  the most casually dressed teacher as most men wear suits and women wear heels and dresses. The men however, have some classic fashion tips:

• White socks with dress pants and dress shoes.

• Massive gold chains with big gold crosses

• White dress shoes (in a school surrounded in sand!)

• Bright green, baby blue or purple suits

So really, anything goes!  How wonderful is that???!!!!

Madam, can you photo me?

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Not a day goes by that I don’t get asked this question.   Kids interrupt me in class, come knocking on my door at home and stop me on the street to ask me to take their photo.  I know that for many, they don’t have mirrors at home, so the photos give them a chance to see themselves.  For the younger kids, they just want to see themselves on the screen on the camera but for most, they want me to print the photos for them.  So, I had to set up a routine… every second Friday is “photo shoot Friday” and then for those who pay me the N$5, I will print the photo for them in town.

Photo shoot days are interesting.  The kids come with multiple wardrobe changes, wigs and make up and get all dolled up.  On any given day there could be 20 to 40 kids waiting for their photo to be taken – in many, many different poses!  One group of girls started stripping in front of me – yes, they wanted naked photos!  Of course, I didn’t feel comfortable photographing my learners naked – so we agreed on bras and underwear!  Needless to say it takes A LOT of patience on my part – but in the end I get some great photos of the kids!

Wigs and sun glasses!

Grade 8 girls in their bestest

Gorgeous grade 6 girls!

Very often they want me in their photos! Here are grade 9 girls - Adolphine, Katrina and Kalina

Grade 9 boys - SOOOO COOOOL!

Isn't she a cutie???

Elisabeth - grade 10. We might find her on Africa's Next Top Model!

When I come to school on Monday with their photos printed, they are so excited to see them.  And then they guard them with their lives!

Let’s Talk About Sex!

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This week in Life Skills we started the unit on Sex and Sexuality.  OMG – I was a little uncertain how the kids would deal with formally learning and talking about what most of them are doing.  Once again, they surprised me with their attentiveness and maturity.

For the first part of the lesson we clarified the difference between ‘sex’ and ‘sexual intercourse’.  And there was a sentence in their text book that said “It is possible to change your sex by having surgery”.  Well, this started a MAJOR discussion.  First of all, they had never heard of someone changing their sex and they thought it was very interesting.  One boy asked question after question…”If a boy becomes a girl, can he have intercourse?  If a boy becomes a girl, can he fall pregnant?  How do boys grow breasts if they want to be a girl?”.  Needless to say, describing these details to them in basic English required a lot of hand gestures and examples.

Then I had them write a paragraph on their own sexuality.  They had to include answers to a couple prompts that I gave them…and because they are so entertaining, I thought I would post a couple good ones.  Looks like I have a lot of work to do with them!

Do you think families should discuss sexual intercourse?

“My family told me sexual intercourse is the thing that is not good.  Because sometimes you can do sex with many girls and you get HIV.”

“When you are young they will tell you about sex and how you should protect yourself from bad boys.”

What age is it okay to have sexual intercourse?

“Is on age 20!  Because age 19 downwards is not important to do sexual intercourse and at 0-19 you can feel pain if you make sexual intercourse”.

“18 because that is when produce sperm and know how to survive with girl.”

“32 years because you should know something about sexual intercourse and how to protect yourself from pregnance.”

“Adolescent – that age we have feelings that force you to having sexual intercourse.”

What does your church say about sexual intercourse?  Do you agree?

“They teaching you if you marry one girl, don’t go to another girl.”

“Our church say that age 0-19 you can’t make sexual intercourse.  And I’m agree about that!”

“Adam and Eve was the first people who do sex and other people are following.”

“God say that people should having sexual intercourse to produce the other people.”

“Sex is not a sin.”

“Our church say we must wait till you get married .  Yes I agree because young children must concentrate on education.”   (This is from my smartest grade 8 – she just gets it!)

Two learners felt the need to clarify to me that they were happy with their sex… I must have scared them with my talk of sex changes!

“So for addition, I am very happy to be a boy because is how I feel and how God made me.”

“I am glad that I am a girl because boys are always bring problems by making girls pregnant.  Boys always want girls so they will have sexual intercourse but I tell them no means no.  I am still young and I am at school to learn and become a important person in future.”

So, there you have it – lessons on sexuality from my grade 8 learners!  I think we need to change this Life Skills course to everyday instead of once a week!

Canada Day Celebrations in Namibia

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While on the phone with my mom last night, she asked me “what are you going to do with the kids for Canada Day tomorrow?”.  Living in the bubble of isolation here, I hadn’t even thought about it.  So, at the last minute I gathered together what I could to ‘Canadian-ize’ my geometry lesson for today.

After singing happy birthday to Canada, the kids willingly put Canadian flag stickers on their faces (and were so excited about them!).  I played Great Big Sea while they did a geometry puzzle and then gave rewards of maple leaf pencils and red and white candies.  They absolutely loved it.  Throughout the day, kids from other classes were coming and saying ‘Happy Canada Day Miss Tanya!”

The day was wonderful until last period.  As the kids were coming into the class and getting out their books, the principal came in and started yelling at three girls.  Then, right in front of me, in the middle of my class, he started beating them on their backs with a wooden stick.  When he left the classroom, one of the girls started crying and I tried to figure out what had just happened but I too was emotional and didn’t want them to see me upset and angry, so I forged on with my lesson.

While I see this kind of beating on a regular basis around the school, this is the second time it interrupted my class and distracted me.  So, I have decided that I am going to speak to the principal.  I know that I will not change the way he does things.  Gosh, even the fact that corporeal punishment is illegal doesn’t stop him from doing it.  But, I can’t stay silent.  In a respectful, professional manner I will kindly ask him not to beat them in front of me, during my class.  I will let you know how it goes!

Anyways, other than that incident, it was a great Canada Day.  My only regret was not having my camera with me to take a photo of smiling kids with the Canada flag stickers all over their faces!

In the words of one of my students, Eveline Katura, in a card she made me “Happy Canada Day!  God bless all the wonderful people that live in Canada.”