New School Year!

Our new year has started here at the school and we are so happy to see many positive changes.  We are establishing new guidelines for acceptance to our school and reducing our class size slightly from 44 to just under 40.  We are making sure that the needy children come first and doing our best to know what we can before they enter our school.  It was a slow process and it did meet with some dissent, but sometimes change is hard.  We have tried to eliminate any sort of favoritism or nepotism that is bound to happen without strict requirements for our school.  I of course was asked to explain all of this to the parents, because someone had to do it.  It’s a hard spot to explain why one child may be eligible for our school while his neighbor is not, but it is the only way we can truly meet the goal of our foundation of educating the poor and orphaned children first.  Sometimes that means we have to take one child instead of another, but unfortunately we don’t have two classrooms for each grade or enough teachers to handle such a situation.  In fact, we don’t really have enough teachers at all right now!

Unfortunately it was not all rainbows and sunshine in our first couple weeks.  We arrived at school with 4 teachers which would be standard in America, but here it is not.  We were without 2 teachers who would teach our social sciences and vocational skills classes.  We had made hires without following very strict guidelines or interviewing and as a result they were hired without knowing when they could start.  One will show up in mid-February and another teacher never showed up at all.  This means that our teachers would be teaching every period and switching between classes all day long.  Because one of our teachers only speaks Kiswahili and another is our headmistress it is not uncommon to be walking by a class and see children teaching themselves or our matron.  It is a growing pain for sure and a learning process for all of us.  We (the foundation) are a bit limited in our influence when it comes to these sorts of situations.  We cannot force the hand of anyone, only advise them no matter what the situation or if we know they made a mistake.  This has been difficult as we see instructional time go wasted, and I see the teachers tire quickly because they are not used to teaching all day.  Quick note here, our primary and secondary teachers do this every day all year long, so next time you see a teacher in the states remind them that they are the best and give them a hug!  Adam and I have found ourselves at times energized and at times exhausted by the chaos.  It is certainly a new situation for the both of us who have grown up in and worked in the school system. 

Of course, you know me, we have found two huge bright spots in this mess!  Our long term volunteers Katie and Joost have arrived and have really stepped up!  They are going to be able to help during class periods of instructional time at Stella Maris, and they have filled in very well!  Because we welcome so many visitors from our hotel we have to be strict in preserving the learning time of pupils.  We will already be making up for this first month already so we will typically have visitors (less than one full school term of 3 months) help with tutoring and our kindergarten (great opportunities in themselves), unless they are a certified teacher.  It takes routines to help children learn and we are already asking so much of our children!  With Katie and Joost observing and learning this week, they have already been jumping in and helping out with Adam and I whenever and wherever they can.  They have also enjoyed playing together at recess which is always a favorite of all our guests.  Also they are really stretching their English development in talking about how tall Joost is comparing him to all sorts of animals.  

Another bright spot is the leadership that we have seen in some of our children.  They have taken over their own classes whenever a teacher is out of the room.  They are playing math flash card games, reading story books and often running a very tight ship.  When you look at our classrooms from the outside you will often see two or three children outside from misbehaving while our “student leaders” are trying to run a structured learning game!  It is definitely encouraging for all of us.  We can be confident that there are plenty of good leaders that are growing because of our school.  

There is a lot to be happy about and a lot to be fixed.  Then again if everything was perfect then I would be pretty useless here and they wouldn’t need our help!  I will be sure to update all of you about our progress at the school, and hopefully by the next post we will at least have one more teacher!

No comments:

Post a Comment