Dorcas and I arrived early to set up a classroom in the library. The teacher in charge of the health club arrived to help out, commented on how dusty the room was, and sent for a few kids to wash the tables. A few young girls arrived and smiled and chatted as they dipped rags in a bucket of sloshing water.
Kids slowly trickled into the room all wearing their mandatory forest green uniforms. As they sat down I passed out name cards to place on the table in front of them. They didn't understand my instructions to write their first name in big letters on the front of the card, so I showed them the one I'd made for myself. A boy grabbed a marker and started scrawling a big "G". "Oh sorry, not my name, I know my name, I'd like you to write your first name". He giggled and flipped the card inside out starting over.
Once everyone was seated I started to introduce myself but the teacher cut me off briefly to introduce me to the class. She told them to be attentive and ask questions and a number of other rules all followed by "isn't it?" and a unanimous, affirmative "yeeesss". I started out by listing off the topics that we will be covering during the term then asked if there was anything missing that they would like to learn about. A 7th year boy stood up and listed off the topics he had already learned "Malaria, Peer Pressure..." Dorcas tried to clarify for me that I was asking if there was anything else they wanted to learn. Everyone seemed satisfied, or just didn't want to answer.
The topics we will be covering are as follows:
- Personal Hygiene
- Water and Airborne Diseases
- Malaria and Hepatitis B/C
- Adolescence and Puberty
- Resisting Peer Pressure (Including Drugs/Alcohol)
- Sexually Transmitted Infections
We still had a fair amount of time left so I went back to an activity I'd skipped. I wanted to know what they knew, or thought they knew about the United States. I was expecting to hear some common stereotypes and told them to come up with whatever they thought of and that I wouldn't be insulted or feel bad.
I gave them a chance to talk to their groups of 3-5 first for a couple of minutes. Then I said that each table should send up a representative to say one thing their group talked about. They were too shy to stand up and stayed seated. "Wildlife" was the first response and "climate" the second. I realized they'd actually come up with questions for me about the US, which ended up being fine but wasn't exactly what I'd been getting at. They asked me other things in short phrases or single words "president", "diet", and "that the streets are clean?" were other responses. It's hard to make any broad generalizations about the US so I tried to explain that it's a big country and the climate depends on where you are as well as the wildlife but I listed a few examples and talked about the four seasons.
At the end of class the teacher asked them "Are you happy?"
Referring to the "visitor" aka me, "Do you love her?"
Wow wasn't expecting that! Then she talked to them about the importance of the class and the importance of being clean and bathing. She went off on a tangent about some people smelling so bad it makes you "want to vomit" and underscored the fact that they must bathe each and every day. She also told them that the classroom was a dusty disgrace and being the health club they needed to come in every Tuesday during their free time to clean it in preparation for Wednesday's class. Then she asked a girl to stand up and say a prayer. I was really surprised by this being completely unaccustomed to religion in school, especially a public school. Unfortunately class had just let out and it was loud outside so all I caught was something about "bless our visitor". It was a nice gesture and I felt very welcomed by them.
Although the students were shy they were very attentive. I think they'll warm up to me a little more next week and will be a little more interactive. If not, I'll just point to the rules and say "be courageous"!
I stayed after to go through books for the "Reading Stars" promotional library activity I've been working on. A few little girls gathered by the door and peered through the window at me. Whenever I turned around and made eye contact they would squeal and quickly duck behind the wall. A couple of the braver girls snuck into the library and hid behind a bookcase. I asked them their names and found out they were in grade 1.
Leaving the library a group of students gathered around me and followed me to the car. They all started imitating my voice, "Hiieee" and "Hooow areee you?" they said. I hope I don't sound that whiny!
Before class ended I gave them an opportunity to write anonymous questions and put them in a "Question Box" for me to answer at the beginning of next week's class. I left the instructions pretty open and said they could ask a question about me, the US, or if they already had a health question to ask that. Here are some of the ones I found most interesting:
"Is america the best country in the world?" No?
"Can america colonies Kenya again." Uhh I don't remember that happening in the first place...
"Can you send an email from united states to come in Kenya."
"How amerika lokes like."
I got six different questions about farms in the United States and what we grow, "I want to know either you grow plants large farms"
Questions about me:
"Teacher Gwen I want to know were you are born" Two students referred to me as "Teacher Gwen", so cute!
Questions about health:
"growth of foetus in the uterus."
"AIDS was brought by?"
"Why do some body kiss here friend and do not get HIV/AIDS"
"How can I over come PEER Pressure."
There were a few other really great health questions. I'm excited to be the one to answer things which they have been wondering but either haven't had a chance to ask or have been afraid to.
And finally, ones I may need a translation for:"Doe's you know 'kung fu'? Where is the centreos training 'fatesco skills' (football)" I have no idea what this means. Maybe they're talking about a football field or a gym?
"Do they cling like us" Hmm...