Friday, 6 March 2009

received pronunciation at Mushushiro

March 5th

I’m determined not to get caught up in office work today, and I certainly don’t want a repeat of yesterday’s fiasco at Gikomero, so I get off as fast as I can in a taxi bus to Mushishiro. I know I’ve been rooked by the convoyeur; he’s charging me 800 which I suspect is the fare for the full distance. But, then, if I had hired a moto it would be around 1500 at the very least, so I’m saving VSO some money. And as usual there’s quite a wait hanging around in the bus park for the taxi bus to fill up.

I know that the school is about 2 miles from the main road, and I’ve been there before ( by accident, en route to somewhere else – the usual mistakes by moto drivers), so I’m confident I can find my own way.

When I get off the taxi bus I’m immediately jostled by moto drivers, all eagerly waiting for the chance to fleece the muzungu. I tell them I’m walking and you should see the sulky looks I get….

It’s a longish but very pleasant walk down the earth road through Mushushiro village and down to the school(s). Its market day and everyone is setting up, but all comes to a halt when a muzungu passes through. Once again, you don’t get many white people this far out, and NEVER on foot. I don’t care; I feel safe and confident that I can handle things; I know where I’m going and it’s a beautiful morning with blue skies, green mountains, and people calling to me from the fields. This is precisely why I came to Africa.

There is a big complex of schools, centred round the paroisse and its church. There are two big established secondary schools, Buringa and ACODES right next to each other, and Mushuishiro primary school where Cathie and I did a training last year. The new Tronc Communc section is a brick built, 1950s block about half way between the primary and the secondary schools, so we have quite an educational complex here.

All the children are on their mid morning r beak when I arrive and I get mobbed, even by these teenagers (and much older than teenagers with some of them). The head, Alphonse, is in a meeting so I am met by the English teacher, who fortunately I have already seen and helped when he has visited the District Office earlier this term. There are four teachers, one of them is experience and the other three are all probationers. None of the probationers has been to teacher training college; their qualification for teaching in a secondary school seems to be that they have finished secondary school themselves. Of course, the rooms are bereft of niceties such as books, posters, equipment of any sort.

Eventually Alphonse, the head, arrives. He’s an enterprising chap and I like him. He’s done a deal with the priests to be able to use a church building which has electricity, so he can bring his own laptop to school and teach some rudimentary ICT to the classes. There are 3 classes with 52 in each and still growing – that’s more children than we’re officially allowed in primary school classes under the nouveau regime. They’re packed into the rooms so that it isn’t easy to move around, and it’s very difficult for the students to get up out of their seats and write on the board.

I watch an English lesson with the experienced teacher; he’s good – calm, in control. He’s teaching phonetics, so we learn to say the vowel sounds correctly, including a very plumy, “RP” version of “O” which would come naturally to a public school girl but sounds hilarious in the middle of Mushishiro.

Then I watch a biology lesson with one of the probationers; he’s a nice lad and knows his science but nobody has taught him any teaching technique. He scribbles all over the blackboard and it’s difficult for the kids to make notes. He talks to the board rather than to the class; he scribbles drawing where he ought to take his time and make the drawings the most important part of his lesson. He suffers badly from the Rwandan mania to classify everything into lists, and doesn’t realise how potent diagrams are as an educational tool. He’s also acutely nervous of having both his directeur and a muzungu inspector in the room with him.

I give him a very positive debrief in front of the head; he’s got the makings of a good teacher and it’s not his fault if the system doesn’t give him any help in teaching technique.

Alphonse is a head teacher with initiative. He’s arranged for two women from the village to come and cook lunches for 70 of his pupils for a nominal sum each; he’s persuaded the priest to let him have use of the church room at weekends so that he can show films to his students and try to build up some sort of team atmosphere among the pupils. After all, he’s very much competing with two far bigger, far more established schools right next door.

The school will be short of rooms again next year, and there is no water on site – they have to use water from the next door schools or from the presbytery tank. That means they’ll be the first to be denied water during the dry season.

Honestly, absolutely nothing seems to have been thought through when setting up these new secondary schools!

I walk back up to the main road; Alphonse comes with me part way. There’s been a head teachers’ meeting in the secteur office all morning and they’re just packing up; I bump into Étienne, the hew head at Cyicaro who I’m visiting on Monday, with his parents’ committee chairmen – two elderly farmers who don’t speak a word of English or French and to whom Etienne has to translate everything.

As I’m walking through Mushishiro market there’s a taxibus almost ready to leave for Gitarama. I can’t believe my luck – I was sitting a good half hour on one this morning before it left the bus park in Gitarama. The convoyeur says its 600 francs to get home. I’m the talk of the bus, and start chatting to anyone around me who talks French. Two men quietly tell me that the fare should be 500, not 600; when I give the convoyeur 500 he doesn’t bat an eyelid.

As I’m drifting back to the District Office after lunch I bump into Raima, who is desperate for some maths materials. I promise to bring her some of the maths games and wall posters that I have in my resource collection; it’ll have to wait till a quiet day.

In the afternoon I write up my report ready to email to Alphonse and give to Claude. Then I get a phone call from Joe, who has somehow managed to miss getting off a bus at Kibuye and has just arrived in Gitarama. Can we put him up for the night? Yes, of course we can.

So when Tom comes home we decide to eat out, and take Joe to Nectar for the joys of “omelette special” (I still can’t open my mouth properly, and Joe is horrified at how swollen my cheek is. I look like a hamster on my left side).

By nine o’clock we’re all tired, so it’s off to bed with Joe on a mattress in the lounge.

Best thing about today – everything. It’s another nice day out in the countryside visiting schools.

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