l is currently free for all the children, who all come from poor families and cannot afford government schools. They each have been given a red polo shirt to wear as uniform, although they do not all wear them every day, as you can s
ee. No strict uniform code here!
The children are aged between 3 years and 14 years old. However, as the designated upper age limit is 12 years, many of them claim every year on their birthday they are turning 12…
There are 3 classes in total: a ‘Reception’ or Kindergarten class, a Grade 1 class and then a Grade 2/3 mixed class. With over 50 children, and another 60 or so on the waiting list, the limited resources are stretched very thin. The school consists of three tiny adjoining rooms, and most resources are also stored there. A termite infestation over the Christmas break ruined a door, the ceiling in one of the rooms and some of the furniture. Luckily Abi, the teacher and founder of the school, had packed her books and other termite-edible resources away in plastic boxes, or the damage could have been far worse.
The school is desperately in need of resources, particularly reading scheme books. The children are also very much in need of clothing: any donated items which are not suitable for these children are redistributed locally to families or orphanages as appropriate. Any large items for teenage boys can be used by the Secondary school boys who live in the orphanage run by the MacDonalds.
I started volunteering here in January, working with the Grade 1 class which consists of 18 children. We are teaching Literacy, Maths and Phonics, and covering additonal topics within these crucial subject areas. My main focus at the moment with Grade 1 is to encourage the children to practice speaking in English. The ‘official’ language of Zambia is English, although none of the 54 children currently enrolled would cite English as their native language. Most speak Nyanja, some also speak Bemba, and a few speak another local language as well. This is all before coming to school and being bombarded with English spoken in various accents depending on who is helping out that day!
Consider your own experiences with the English language. My Kiwi friends have different words and pronunciation for various ordinary every day objects; I have some funny stories about that – you know who you are! I personally often lapse into ‘Americanisms’ which flummox my British friends; ‘Northern England’ English can be confusing just by the accent, never mind the speed at which they often speak (I’m allowed to say that, my husband is one)! And anyone NOT from Scotland: have you ever tried to understand someone from the North East coast or Glasgow in full flow? It’s a minefield, quite honestly. Even if it IS your first language.
So at the moment, we have myself (accent fluctuating between English and American on a regular basis), Abi (English), Sam (South African) and a helper visiting from near Manchester with a Northern accent. Oh, and the MacDonalds who come from Scotland. You have got to hand it to these kids, they may look blankly at us sometimes but who can blame them? Most of the time, they take it in their stride and laugh. They also laugh at me when I try to speak Nyanja, but that’s fine with me.
Muli bweno. (Hi/How are you?)
I’m off to Livingstone this weekend to see Victoria Falls – I cannot wait. I will post some photos, assuming it’s not in such full spate that we can’t see anything at all. I am optimistic…!