Saturday, 26 May 2012

Week 3

Week 3 was the first week of proper placement. Wairimu had abandoned us in the middle of the Kalahari desert to fend for ourselves so off we went to attempt to do some teaching in the local schools! We have decided that the two schools where we can make the most difference and the ones that appear to need the most help are Matsha Collage (for form 4 and 5 - basically Sixth Form ages) and Moutang Junior School (form 1 - 3, so like high school age). The first time we went round these schools we were surprised by how westernised they looked and appeared to have everything they needed. However, we have since realized that they literally have no resources for the children, the chalk boards probably haven’t been painted since the 1990’s and the children are using out of date text books. There is a Science lab at Matsha that was set on fire about 5 years ago and stills looks exactly as it did after the fire had been put out, the school just hasn’t been given the funding by the government to repair the damage so its just at the end of the corridor and no one is allowed in!

The first lessons at Moutang were eventful to say the least. We started off teaching about HIV/AIDs and its safe to say the kids knew a lot more than we did! At the end they started asking really random questions such as “who was the first ever person to die from AID’s?” In the afternoon me and Faye Tray had our first experience of a Botswana hospital! We had to go because I had this horrific rash all over my arms and was convinced I had contracted some tropical disease, it turned out I was allergic to the desert!! Bit of a bummer but he gave me some pills, and an injection so its all gravy! The people in the doctors are fair sketchy, one guy called Chester sat there the whole time taking pictures of us and trying to convince Faye to let him have her number and be his girlfriend, then another lady asked my if we would breast feed her child (who looked about 5!) and then tried to steal my dress. So hopefully no-one will get ill again as I do not want to head back again unless we are on deaths door.

On Tuesday it was Labour Day, so after being told the chief would be there we all put on nice dresses and sandals and prepared for a day of partying and food..... turns out we were actually taking part in a 7k march then a 5 hour speech giving event. The events in Botswana, whilst being fairly interesting for the first 5 minuets literally go on forever in Setswana so we never have any idea whats going on or being said, they never run to time and the only good bit is the free food - which is unfortunately at the end so we have to wait for about 4 hours for a free meal! Seeing as it was a national holiday all the teachers were off work so we had arranged to go and meet with some students at Matsha Collage in the afternoon. Its a boarding school as some of the kids come from as far away as 700k so about 80% live on site. Usually they are left alone from half 4 until school starts the next morning and whatever they get up to is a mystery. But today they had literally been left alone for the whole day, there was no supervision at all and they had to sort out all their own food etc themselves.... we were amazed that they hadn’t destroyed the school and had instead set up football tournaments. The girls showed us around the dorms which were sparsely furnished and its safe to say I would definitely not want to be living there. It was good being able to chat to the students without teachers being there as they were able to tell us about how they felt without being worried about being overheard. In a nutshell they said that the teachers don’t give a rats ass about them or their education and just do the bare minimum, they don’t have any equipment, no support systems for outside of lessons and they feel that they have just been forgotten about by the government. Matsha is the worst school in Botswana, its 28/28 on the league tables and to be honest talking to the kids and how they feel they are treated its not suprising. It almost broke my heart when on the Friday at the careers fair a boy said “it’s almost as if they want us to go nowhere”, they genuinely want to achieve all these amazing things but no-one cares enough to try and help them achieve them!. 

Wednesday was TXY day. We spent the morning with the kids in the school, doing some lessons and some songs, then helped out at tea time and served the porridgy-looking stuff. We had a meeting with the VDC (Village Development Committee - basically if you want anything doing in the surrounding area you have to get these guys onside as they approve and fund projects) in the afternoon which revealed some interesting information. Basically the shit hit the fan and we have some epic work to do to sort out the fence situation. Today was however an epic day because I finally got my own bed! If any of you know, me and Faye Tray have been sharing a bed for the past two weeks whilst we found another and today was the day! Bernard (the little lamb) helped us bring it home, the joy of having my own bed was well and truly ruined when we realized it is like sleeping on a piece of wood!

Thursday was our first day of proper teaching at Matsha. Like at Motaung were working in Guidance and Counseling (basically PSE lessons) as the children really need a lot of help with things that we take for granted. We were told by the Peace Core volunteer Jan that in a lesson she asked the kids ‘What would you do if you fell out with a friend?”, the first answer was to commit suicide. Especially in Matsha, there is a real issue with suicide. At the end of last term 3 students committed suicide in the space of a week! I think today has been the most stressful and emotional day of the trip so far. It was annoying seeing how little the teachers cared about the kids and how blasé one was when he informed us that a form 5 student had said they were having suicidal thoughts.... it was genuinely said as if it was a run of the mill everyday occurrence! Today in lessons we worked on goal setting for the future which was really interesting. The kids have such high ambitions so were hoping to work on things like sorting out the right courses for career options and applying to university with them in the future. The kids are clueless about all sorts of things we have had millions of lessons on throughout school - careers, university, higher education, simply because they are not allowed on the internet at all. In keeping with all the planning for the future stuff in the afternoon, we helped to organise the careers fair which was happening on the next day (Friday). We expected this ‘planning meeting’ to just be organising final touches for the morning, but no.... they had absolutely no idea who was and wasn’t coming, the students didn’t have a clue it was even happening until someone whipped up a poster half way through the meeting. It was such a shambles, they genuinely couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery with a leak in the beer kegs!

Against all the odds, the careers fair, organised less than 24 hours in advance was a success (according to the students ... I still had such qualms). Skillshare had a small stall where we were meant to chat to people about higher education and about volunteering and just give general advice. It was amazing to see how keen the students were to work with us on study skills and sorting out university applications. They have so much more enthusiasm and drive than any kids I’ve ever met in England, yet at the moment it sucks to say but is true that they have very little chance of ever realizing their potential simply because no-one gives a shit about them! I think that as much as my first two days working properly at Matsha annoyed me and made me angry at the Botswana education system, its made me so much more passionate about the pupils and making sure that we do something to help them reach their potential and to prove to them that they are valued and have not been forgotten. It may sound simple to solve but the issues run far deeper than lazy teachers and not enough funding so hopefully we will get to the bottom of it and sort out these kids, we’re even genuinely talking about going to see the President to make him help us out. I want to go in guns blazing and yell at him but at the moment were trying to figure out how to say “your a douche, come look after these kids and give them a chance” without sounding rude as I do not want to be barred from Botswana.
Saturday and Sunday we took part in a PACT workshop for the local schools. PACT Club is a counseling service run by students for students. The PACT kids are some of the most amazing inspirational people I have ever met, they are so happy and enthusiastic about everything and just put a smile on my face. The workshops dealt with stuff like HIV/AIDs, teenage pregnancy, stress and other things that affect the students but as usual it was all in Setswana so we all spent the majority of the time trying to look like we weren’t falling asleep. Saturday night we went to one of the teachers houses and she made us Mopane worms and pap to eat, they were actually really nice, then we went to a mixer for teachers. Sunday night has to be one of the best nights of my life. We met up with some friends and went into the bush (the actual middle of the desert), made a bonfire and had a BBQ and drinks. It was amazing, all the stars were out in the sky and looked beautiful and we just chilled playing volleyball, music and drinking. I think it is one of those things that you will never forget, I will always remember peeing in a circle with Emma and Faye Tray being scared we were about to be eaten by a lion!

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