I want to start off by apologizing for the lack of blog posts recently; I’ve been very busy in village with work projects and trying to spend as much time with my host family and friends there since I only have two months left.
My village is very small and most children are not in the French school (a lot of children go to the Koranic school in my village instead or spend all day working or playing). Thus, there are only two teachers; one teachers the youngest two grades (kindergarten and 1st grades), and one teaches the oldest two grades (3rd and 5th grades); there are about 50 kids in total, the majority being in the youngest classes with only 9 students in 5th grade. I spend an hour in each room and have taught lessons on nutrition, dental health, hygiene, malaria, basic illnesses, and much more. There’s something really wonderful about teaching to a group of students who all know and love you, and who you know everyone in their family.
The last lesson I taught the younger classes was about nutrition. I used the go, grow, glow model, which is a simplified way of explaining a healthy diet. There are foods to go (sugars/oils), grow (protein-rich foods), glow (fruits/vegetables), and then the staple foods (rice/bread/couscous). I drew this model as a 3-legged chair; go, grow, and glow are the three legs to hold the healthy baby on the seat containing the staple food. To get the students to understand what foods fall into each category, I drew pictures of the food item and called students up. Based upon which category it fell into, they had to perform an action. For staple items, they blew out their cheeks and put out their arms to look fat; for go, they ran in place; for grow, they showed their biceps; and for glow, they had to slap their legs and fake laugh. It was hilarious to watch. I even drew in some teenagers who were passing outside; they heard the noise, looked in the room, and took a seat to learn the information. These younger kids also remember the song I taught them last year about malaria, a ditty I had made up on the spot about the symptoms of malaria. Sometimes, when I walk in to teach them, they stand up and start singing it to me.
I teach the older classes in the afternoon, when they are not scheduled to be in school. I arranged with the teacher so that a student has access to the key to open the classroom door, and I start class at 4. As soon as the children finish eating lunch, around 2:30 or 3, they come to my door to see if I am ready to go to school. Nu demjangleggi? (We go to learn now?) These kids all love to learn. They then sit and play in my compound until the designated time, when they escort me and carry my baggage to the school. They are so eager to be taught by me. Though they can get a bit rowdy, they are all ready to listen when I slap an eraser against a desk (much more effective than a ruler, which I’ve broken twice now). Most recently, I taught them about the importance of hand washing and sanitation. Most of them seemed to understand the information, though there were several concepts that the students just couldn’t get. I explained germs, how they spread, and how they’re invisible to the eye. All the students then agreed that the floor was dirty. But to see if I’d proven my point, I dropped a peanut on the ground, picked it up, and asked if I should eat it. Immediately, all hands shot up, but not to answer the question; they all wanted me to offer the peanut to them to eat. That lesson was clearly not effective. But I have gotten through to them on other areas. Last year, I had taught a lesson about the importance of washing cuts and wounds. Sometimes, the kids literally drag a friend to my room to have me wash it with soap and water. And they enjoy tattling on each other for having wounds. While they may not necessarily be practicing these measures all the time, it shows me that they understand what should be done and hopefully will pass these best practices on to their friends and families.
Also, amazingly, when my hour is done with them (and this is an additional hour to their scheduled school times), they don’t want to leave the room. They all sit there and beg me to teach them more, write math problems on the board, or write a text for them to read out loud. These children love to learn, but unfortunately, most read very slowly (without any comprehension of the words they’re reading in French) and cannot solve even simple math. It’s not them, it’s the system they’re stuck in.