School’s in session

11 January 2012

I visited Mrs Mlay’s school today. She is the head teacher at the local primary school. It has about 300 students and 12 teacher. The school badly needs renovation. The ceilings are starting to crumble. The desks are old school with wooden benches to sit on. There are big chalkboards in front and a desk for the teacher. Not much on the walls, but some things on the walls outside, as all the classrooms open to the outside. The children eat lunch at school, cooked for them there, always ugali and beans. Mrs Mlay knows that’s not enough, but it’s what there is for now. I said hi to some classes. All the students stand and chant hello or whatever, and as expected there was much excitement to see me walking around.

One class I just popped into to say hi was a 1st grade class. There were many students, maybe 50? I guess they don’t get notebooks that young, and they were writing in chalk on the desktops or the floor, practicing consonants, I believe.

I spent a brief time watching a few different lessons. One was (maybe) 5th grade learning Swahili sentences structure. The teacher explained some things and then wrote some sentences on the board and called on students to tell her the noun ( I think). Some students were eager to participate, some not. They also wrote the sentences in their notebooks. The boys and girls were sitting on opposite sides of the room but I’m not sure that’s required, as it wasn’t strictly the case in the other classes. There were about 25 in this class.

A second grade-ish class (8 year olds, anyway) was learning to read with animal names. The teacher wrote several on the board, explaining them as she went, and then called on student to go up and say the word. There were lots of enthusiastic volunteers; the student selected was given a yard stick to hold. They would go up, say the word, be asked to repeat it a few times, then the whole class would say the word and repeat it a few times. There were about 40 students in this class.

Then a 6th grade civics class, just for a few minutes. Not much to report here. Not a big class – maybe 20?

The rest of the day was basically wasted, though I witnessed corporal punishment for the first time at the secondary school Mr Mlay needed to visit. The girls get hit with a stick on the palms of the hands and the boys on the bottom.

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