Today I had a wonderful time back at school! I attended classes from grade1 to grade 7 at PIZZ school with the sole exception of grade 3 where a new teacher is awaited.
I was very impressed by the way in which the lessons were conducted. The limited number of textbooks means that much of the work is done using the traditional blackboard and chalk. The children are very attentive and are enthusiastic. I was surprised how much of the lesson for the grade 1 students was in English. I don't know how I would cope if I had to learn my lessons in a foreign language. Even after spending more than 2 years in Zambia my Chitonga is negligible – to my great shame..
The grade 1 students were learning about shapes as part of the mathematics curriculum. I was impressed by the way the teacher praised and encouraged the children. These children come from very disadvantaged backgrounds and most are unlikely to have had any previous exposure to English. I felt privileged to be part of a project which gives them the possibility to move away from a life of poverty. It is also a huge responsibility. These children need our support so that they are not given a false hope.
In grade 2 they were talking about birthdays when I joined them. I shared that my daughter has her birthday today, so they each drew a birthday card for Barby in their notebooks.
In grade 4 the class was also doing maths. They were learning how to calculate the cost of common items of shopping – I now know why everyone here has no problem calculating my bill and providing change. (Unlike my experience in the UK where the cashiers seem to rely totally on the till.)
In grade 5 they were being taught English, concentrating on proper nouns, and in grade 6 the subject was science - the topic evaporation and condensation. Here a small experiment was done with with a kettle and bottle of cold water.
My final class was grade 7. This is the first stage were an examination is taken to determine whether the child progresses to the next grade. These students sit their exams at the end of the month and were doing revision with the teacher. A girl read a story from a textbook about a university student who had been ill and had just tested HIV+. Of course for many their situation has come about because of the disease, but the subject is not kept hidden in Zambia. I was welcomed by the children reciting poems and at the end of the lesson some of the students introduced themselves. Most were being brought up by their grandmothers and three of them said that they had lost both parents by the age of 8 or 9. Unfortunately this is a very common story among these children.
Being with the children and teachers brought home to me just how important this project is for the future of so many. It is being among them and glimpsing some of their potential that brings the project to life for me.
Funding is always a problem when the students cannot afford to pay fees. The past year has been difficult and yet my experience today showed me that, despite limited resources, wonderful things are happening.
The children ended by pleading for continued support and I am sure you will continue to be generous.
Izzy and I will be returning to Rwanda this coming November to continue the work on the School.
We will once again as in past visits be employing local labourers to assist in the plastering and painting of four classrooms and also the Nursery. Further work is required on the toilets, there are also roofs that need repair work to keep out the rain, windows to repair and footpaths required in order that the School pupils do not have to walk from class to class in mud and stones.
It is hoped that during this visit discussions can be made about a team of English language teachers visiting next year.
Plans are also going ahead for the maintenance work programme for 2014 that is necessary to keep the School up an acceptable level. It is also possible that a complete new block of classrooms may be considered.
This is a long term project which needs ongoing funding and we wish to thank all those that have contributed funds to date. All the money that it received goes to the School as the volunteers pay their own expenses.
We will report in more detail on our return before Christmas.
Dick Wheelock and I timed our arrival in Benin to coincide with the arrival of the container which we had loaded in Monmouth and the timing worked well. It held a generously donated a Fordson Major tractor and many ploughing and other farming accessories, also a number of bicycles for intended use by the youngsters enabling them to get to school. Dick also linked with a church in Monmouth and obtained an organ to give to the Affame Methodist Church. We took redundant medical equipment, and literally hundreds of pencils!
It was decided that the container should remain in Affame for added security and so after having off-loaded the tractor in the market place we faced the challenge of placing the container within the ‘Kakpo’ family compound. Dieudonne had successfully negotiated the release of the container from the port and its transport to Affame, but now he needed a lorry with a crane. Fortunately he located one and between the tractor pulling and the lorry lifting and pushing the container was left securely in place.
The organ is in use in the church and the organist wrote reiterating the great thanks he had expressed in church. ‘Merci beaucoup et que Dieu vous benisse’.
Medical equipment will be offered to the Health Centres of Hounvige and Aschonsa.
Achilles was pleased that he had been able to use the three classrooms on stilts during the school year 2011/12 but he also expressed his concern that the plastering and painting had yet to be done. The construction relies extensively on the use of re-enforcing bars and these are liable to corrode if not fully covered. However, this task is difficult to achieve and can only be done between the two rainy seasons when sand can be taken from the river and cement can be safely transported by pirogue and lorry from Affame.
In order to make optimum use of donations, keeping the transport costs to a minimum and making bulk purchase of cement would be essential. Thus, it would make the most economic sense if this remaining task could be undertaken when the funding for the total estimated cost of £2500 became available. We are currently £1800 short of this target and so further financial assistance is urgently requested please.