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.
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