Mambo Kaka (s) and Dada(s),
Last Wednesday, Bea and I went to Mlimani Primary School to sit in on some of the English classes that were taught by the 3 teachers that we interviewed during the initial needs assessment process. When we arrived around 9:20am, we joined Mr. Jehudi (a Standard 5 teacher) in his classroom. When we entered the classroom all the students stood up and said, “Good foundation, Good morning madam, how are you today?”. We were received with this same greeting in every class that we visited.
Mr. Jehudi was just getting started with the lesson, and we noticed that almost half of the students in the class stood up and ran out of the classroom. Mr. Jehudi told us that they were going to go and borrow books from their peers, because there is a shortage of books. After all the students returned and were situated Mr. Jehudi started the lesson, Unit 7 Sports Day. He instructed the students in English, but sometimes he spoke Swahili to elaborate and explain certain words.
I looked around the classroom and saw about 5-6 students, per bench, sharing one English workbook. Mr. Jehudi started the lesson by reading a story from Unit 7 in the book. He then asked for volunteers to role play different characters in the story. The students were very anxious to play the roles of: the sportsmaster, Mr. Mburugu, and Mrs. Wetio. Based on the names of the characters in the story, I am guessing that the book was in a Swahili context.
The first group of students that read were very articulate. It was shocking to see some of them reading better than their teacher. The oral exercise was intended to give the students an opportunity to practice their speaking skills. Mr. Jehudi stopped several times to highlight some grammar errors that the students were making. He emphasized the commas, periods, and question marks. The first group of students read their parts of the story with no problem. The other groups stumbled on words, and Mr. Jehudi stopped several times to make sure the class understood how to pronounce certain words. The students that participated were clearly very sharp and eager to learn. There were so many students in the class and with no teaching aids or books for the entire class we saw how difficult it would be to teach them all.
After the role playing, Mr. Jehudi asked the students to answer some questions from Unit 7 in the workbook. He asked the students the first few questions out loud, and the same students responded. Some students heard others saying the answers to some of the questions and so they raised their hands to answer the question. After a few examples, the instructional portion of the class was over and the students were asked to answer the remaining questions on their own and then Mr. Jehudi would mark their answers. Overall, the students in Mr. Jehudi’s Standard 5 English class seemed engaged and excited to learn English.
After Mr. Jehudi’s class, we went to Mr. Chuo Standard 4A English class. The students welcomed us with the same really cute greeting, “Good Foundation, Good morning…”. The students in this class also had to borrow books from their peers. We saw about 20 students rush into the class to borrow books from the Standard 4A class. There was a scarcity of books in this class as well. I shared a book with three other girls.
The lesson for the day was a review of a unit called “Future Events”. Apparently they started learning this unit in the previous class. Mr. Chuo followed the book, similar to the way Mr. Jehudi did. He drew the same table of words that was in the book, and then called on the students to formulate sentences, using will/shall, for future events. (ie: we shall eat fish. Joan will eat fish.) Mr. Chuo spoke in English most of the time, but would say some sentences in Swahili. The students were very eager to answer the questions; almost every student wanted to answer a question. The unit seemed to be an easy one, but some of the students that answered the questions did not do so correctly. Mr. Chuo was not very supportive when the students didn’t give the correct answer, instead he encouraged students with the right answer to raise their hands. After the students completed all the sentences, Mr. Chuo told us that the lesson was over, and the students would do the exercises in the workbook on their own.
The last class that we attended was Mama Merina’s Standard 3 English class. The topic for the day’s lesson was adjectives. Mama Merina told us before the class that the topic was very easy and she was confident that the students would pick it up immediately. She even showed us the teacher’s guide and asked us if we wanted to teach the students. We politely declined and allowed her to proceed with the lesson. Similar to Mr. Jehudi and Mr. Chuo, Mama Merina used the book as her guide for teaching. She spoke very little Swahili during the class. She made sure she communicated to the students in English. When she started the lesson, she asked the students if they knew what an adjective was, and she asked for one of them to define the meaning of an adjective. No one raised their hands. Then she asked for the students to give her an example of an adjective and then a student raised his hand and said black, and then several other students proceeded to mention different colors. The exercise in the book showed several drawings of young students. Again this was a culturally sensitive book. The students could relate to the characters that were illustrated in the book.
Mama Merina asked the students to describe the different pairs of boys and girls on the page. (ie: The boy is tall. The girl is short) After every example, she would select students in the class to be an example of adjective. One of the adjectives pairs was tall and short. Mama Merina asked a tall boy and a short girl to come in front of the class as a visual display of the adjectives. After the exercise, the students were asked to copy down sentences that Mama Merina had written on the board. Then, Mama Merina asked Bea and I to help her mark the students work. It was nice to be able to help her and to also have the opportunity to interact with the students. We tried to give them positive reinforcement and make eye contact with them as they came up to us. We said Good job or great work, and I even drew smiley faces on their papers regardless of how many sentences they wrote correctly. Even when the students were copying sentences that were written on the board, it was evident that some students really didn’t know what was going on because they tried to copy the sentences but misspelled several words or made other smaller mistakes. When we were marking, we also noticed that all the students had been spelling the word rabbit with one b instead of two b(s) and that was because Mama Merina had misspelled the word on the board, so we called her attention to it immediately and made sure that the students knew the right spelling.
Last Wednesday was a great day at Mlimani. The school is really starting to warm up to us even more and accept them as part of their community, because they are starting to see that we really care about the success of the students. Its difficult to see the students sharing books and learning with limited materials, but they thrist for knowledge and will definitely benefit from an English literacy game. A quick side note, I walked by Mr. Chuo’s class, and most of the students remembered Yipee!! It was great! The teachers enjoyed the demo that we presented to them last Friday, and we received lots of helpful feedback from them.
Hello to the BIG WORLD out there. Its almost 3pm in Dar Es Salaam, and that means traffic is about to kick into full force. Tons of cars coming from all over the city, way too many dala-dalas, some bajajs, and bicycles transporting tons of goods to the major markets around the city. Nevertheless, the ground team says YIPPPIE because we are not stuck in traffic and we continue to work hard and enjoy this beautiful city and the vibrant culture and people of Tanzania.
So you are all probably wondering why this blog post is titled yippie. Well, in the States we understand the word yippie to have several different meanings. I’m using this word in the context of an exclamation that is typically used to express one’s delight, excitement and/or happiness. The word yippie has been stuck in my head since a teacher, that works at one of the schools we are working with, sent one of team members on the ground a text message saying yippie; he was really happy to have met us.
…I promise this blog post is going somewhere. So, Bea and I spent most of last week on the field conducting interviews with school teachers. It was really exciting and challenging at the same time. By the end of the week we were pretty exhausted. On Friday, the tech leads followed us to the two different schools. Hatem and I went to Mlimani, while Bea and Brad ventured off to Uhuru. They had a great time interviewing the head teacher of the Blind School.
Hatem and I arrived at Mlimani school around 10am. We sat in the teacher’s lounge for a bit. Mind you it was a very modest room, with a few tables and chairs and no lighting. It was the last day of school and we could see the teachers were excited for a much-needed break. With 60+ teachers at the school (about 19 teachers are inactive, so really 40+ teachers) and 1,500+ students, its safe to say that the teachers were overwhelmed with the amount of work they had to do. Most of the teachers at this particular school teach at least 4 different subjects, and usually have 60+ students in their classes. There you have it, a bit of background on the teachers at the school.
When we went to the school last Friday, I was really interested in learning more about the students at the school. I didn’t want to just come in and amuse them with our fancy cameras, take pictures of them, and then call it a day. I wanted to learn their names, their ages, favorite past times, etc. A few minutes after socializing in the teachers lounge and waiting for a teacher to arrive (so we could return some books he lent to us), we walked outside and started doing a bit of exploring. Hatem started talking to some of the school boys and they loved speaking English. One of them messed up a sentence or two–when he was asked what grade he was in– and the other boys laughed at him. 😦 I like their competitive nature. Right away, I could tell that the children were eager to learn. We began taking some pictures and more kids swarmed in our direction. They wanted to be close to the camera. The teachers permitted the rowdiness for a couple minutes, and then told the kids to go back to their classes.
Hatem and I were starting to get excited and eager to interact with the kids a little bit more. Eventually, the teacher we were waiting for arrived and took us to his Grade 5 classroom. I counted about 40+ students in the class. Pretty good attendance for the last day of class. As soon as we entered the classroom, all the students stood up tall, shining brilliantly in their white and blue uniforms, they greeted us with a loud and uniform “Good morning, we are happy to have you!” I got goosebumps hearing that; the students were very polite. Their teacher told them a little bit about us. He spoke in Swahili the entire time; he had better command of the students when he spoke Swahili. Hatem told them all about Jordan and even drew a big world map, and the students asked questions about our University and the teacher facilitated the conversation. I am not the greatest with geography, but when I said I was from Nigeria all the students said they knew where that was because our countries are on the same continent. 🙂 They asked us a couple more questions, and then the teacher left us with the students because he had to go and attend the final teachers meeting before the prize day parade.
WOW! We had the classroom all to ourselves!! So many eager eyes starring at us in anticipation for us to teach them something new. So, I picked up a piece of chalk and began to write relatively simple English words that came to mind (teacher, apple, girl, boy…) They recited the words confidently. It was all too simple for them, so I started to ask them more complicated questions. The students enjoyed being selected to come up to the board and answer questions. I loved seeing really shy students get engaged when I would ask them to fill in the blank to a sentence like. I like to eat ______. As a side note, many of the students liked to eat a lot of foods that I hadn’t heard of. The liked ugali, makande, beans, meat, chicken and chips. They wanted to visit local places (we recorded some of them on video, unfortunately I don’t remember the names of the places), but there was a young boy that wanted to visit Paris (I hope he gets to go someday). I learned so much about them from this activity. Hatem videotaped a lot of it. I had them recite a lot of the sentences, because their teacher said that they really don’t get enough practice with dictation.
“We come from TechBridgeWorld!” The student recited the sentence so loud and clear. They had a bit of trouble pronouncing tech, but they learned so fast and again I got goose bumps just hearing them say TBW. We didn’t bring anything with us to give to the students. We brought them our undivided attention, and a sincere desire to learn more about them. I believe the students and their teacher saw this and responded positively.
“YIPPIE!” The students learned the word YIPPIE last Friday. Although their teacher had sent the word in a SMS to us a couple weeks ago, he hadn’t shared the word with the students. I must admit that it was a bit difficult to communicate with the students because their understanding of English was limited, but there was one student that spoke English exceptionally well and she really helped me translate a lot of things. She was so cute. She would say things like, “Ugali is a type of food that we eat here in Tanzania. It is also called Stiff porridge.” She was awesome! So, I proceeded to write the word Holiday on the board, then I wrote school, and then I wrote Monday. With those words “Holiday, School, and Monday” I was able to piece together a question for the students about whether or not they were coming to school and Monday and they all responded emphatically, “NO!”
I then taught them the word/expression, “Yippie”. I looked silly at first then the kids caught on once I started saying yippie after they answered a question right or solved a fairly difficult math equation. The kids began to say yippie without being prompted. After a while, they began to get a little rowdy and started jumping and moving around while saying yippie. I quickly tried to put together some semblance of order, so that their teacher didn’t come in and get upset. They really loved saying yippie, it was another way of expressing their happiness. The cool thing about that “teaching” experience with Standard 5 at Mlimani School in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania is that the children were just like other children that I have worked with in day camps in the US. They wanted to learn new things, and they were happy talking about games that they liked to play, their favorite foods, and other things like that.
The students had a ball while Hatem got some video footage and took photographs, and I allowed them to come up to the board and answer questions. After the class, the students quickly ran out to the parade and some even requested to take special pictures with us. We watched as one of the head teachers announced the top 10 students in Standard 4, and we were especially proud of them because we felt as if we had connected with the students and now we were sharing in their joy. After the ceremony, we returned to the classroom where Mr. Sipto gave out their final reports. I could see that the students were eager to open the reports, but they had to wait until they arrived at home. For a quick moment, I had a flashback to the time when I was in primary school in Nigeria and we received our report cards–it was an intense time to say the least. There was one student whose report was misplaced, and he began to cry. 😦 I really felt sorry for him, but of course the teacher had everything under control and put together a new report for him. After the students received their reports, we all went outside to take pictures before we said our goodbyes for the holiday. While we were snapping the pictures the students were screaming yippie, and then other students that were outside around us began to scream yippie. Wherever I went after that, at least one student would see me and jump and scream yippie.
On our walk back to the UCC, some kids saw us and screamed yippie. I guess we really made an impression on the students. More than anything, it made me happy to see that they learned another way to express their joy and excitement as children! The relationship that we have created with the school over the past 3+ weeks, will allow us to begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together and see the bigger picture of their needs and where we can be of assistance with our proposed literacy games project.
- For Dan’s birthday that was yesterday!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAN!!!
- For the inspiring work that TBW does all around the world, and that we are doing here in Dar Es Salaam
- For my amazing team members here in Dar, in the States, and in Doha: Anthony, Bea, Brad, Dan, Emily, Hatem, Shakir
- For the spectacular TBW admins: Bernardine, Sarah, Freddie, and Ermine
- For Eric Beda, and the rest of the UCC staff
- For our cooperative partners in the 3 communities we are working with.
Until next time,
Your Sista from Dar Es Salaam
Hello Everyone… Timi writing. I’m a member of the iStep Team working in Dar Es Salaam. Its amazing how we have already reached the beginning of our third week of work , and as Anthony said things are really starting to pick up. As soon as we received some of the approvals that we were waiting for, we started making a significant amount of progress and working to catch up with the time line that we initially created. At the end of last week, Bea and I worked to revise our interview questions in preparation for the beginning of the needs assesment of the three communities that we are partnering alongside. Its so interesting how things change once you’re on the ground. The needs assessment portion of these project is one that I think is absolutely necessary in ensuring a true partnership.
Last week Friday we went to the Mlimani School (a primary school on the UDSM campus) to meet with some of their teachers that we will be interviewing and working with. It was extremely powerful for me to see how excited and interested the teachers were, especially since we haven’t even started conducting interviews. Many of the teachers that we met with had never really learned how to use a computer, and they expressed interest in the idea of learning how to use the computer to teach their students how to play academically oriented games. One of the teachers made the following remark, “If we learn, the students learn.” That statement really stuck with me as proof that there is a potential for the project to not only help the students but empower the teachers.
…As far as life in Dar Es Salaam/Mlimani/the UDSM campus/Changanykeni. We have become quite impressively independent and accustom to our living situation, transportation, and daily survival. Walking in the heat is second nature to us. We walk A LOT. We sweat A LOT. The walk from the UCC to the Hostel is about 2 km and we walk back and forth like champs. We are also beginning to know our way around the campus, by foot and dala-dala. The campus is really huge, with lots of green space. The walk home is actually quite scenic and tranquil especially after one has had a long day in the city. We also know how to catch a not so full dala-dala. We can bargain at bit, but bargaining doesn’t seem to be the “in” thing here. The few times we tried didn’t end up a success. We’re slowly using more and more tap water on a daily basis. I have started brushing my teeth and rinsing my tooth brush in tap water. We wash our dishes with the water and recently used it to rinse some fruit that we bought.
Some of the entertaining things that have happened to in the past week.
Lock Jaw at Hill Park
- We usually eat lunch at a restaurant just across the street from the UCC. Its called “Hill Park”. Its a pretty nice/reasonably-priced restaurant AND a hot spot for stray cats. Last week, Dan and Brad decided to name one of the cats “Lock Jaw”, because it has a serious jaw deformity…I guess you had to be there? 😦
Mosquito Net Sabbatical
- Early last week, I decided to give my mosquito net to the Mama Bwembe (the very friendly lady that takes care of our hostel) to be washed. That process took about 3-4 days. That was 3-4 days without a mosquito net, which resulted in about 20+ mosquito bites all over my body. Needless to say, extra-strength hydro-cortisone has been a great friend to me during this rough time.
Friday night with the expatriates.
- We had a really fun night on Friday because, for a change, we got to see some of the cool night life that Tanzania has to offer and we had someone to drive us for some parts of the night. A friend of a friend of mine is currently vacationing in Dar Es Salaam. We went to dinner with him and his friend that work for UNHR here in Dar Es Salaam. The place we went to was called Malaika and it was a nice restaurant on the beach. Most of us ordered Chicken Tandori/King Fish-both dishes were delicious!
Princeton and CMU unite at the East African Statistical Center in Changanykeni
- Midday Sunday, some students from Princeton arrived at our Hostel at the East African Statistical Training Center. They will be here for 2 months studying Swahili at the UDSM campus. There are 10 students and they are all really awesome! Their professor arranged for the cafeteria to be open for Breakfast and Dinner (it closed down the week before they arrived). The group also has a dala-dala that picks them up from our compound every morning at 8:40am. They were nice enough to let us ride with them today 🙂
Brad’s New Hair Cut
- On Saturday night, we decided it was time to give Brad a hair. To be honest I was really worked because Brad said if I messed up he would just buzz it all off. I didn’t want that to happen because I would consider his buzzed hair my epic failure. Fortunately enough…Dan was playing a song (accompanied by his guitar) that basically said that I was going to make Brad look like a fool. I proved them wrong…Brad’s new hair cut looks pretty darn good.
Sorry I have no pictures to show. I’m not a big picture taker because at times it attracts unnecessary attention and also our upstream is incredibly slow here at the office, so its virtually impossible to upload the pictures. Hope you enjoyed reading this post…I enjoyed writing it 🙂