Monday, June 22, 2015

"Winter" Break

Hi everybody, and greetings from a cold and gray Sunday morning in Moshi.  The weather remains a big bummer and I am wrapped up in layers upon layers, wearing my hat and scarf indoors, and rockin' the old-school legwarmers.  Such is "winter" in the southern hemisphere....

Incidentally, this does NOT bode well for me, as in just TWO short weeks, my mama will be back in Tanzania, and we are climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro to celebrate our milestone birthdays this year (my unfortunate and misguided idea come to fruition....)

We climbed once before with my dad as well in 2008 and, while I made it to Gilman's Peak - the second highest point on the summit, but short of the true peak, Uhuru - Carla and David turned around at Mawenzi Tarn Hut, only Day Four of the trek.  Mama was fed up with the lack of amenities on the mountain (hot shower, dry pinot, New York Times style section), and Baba was chivalrous enough to accompany her down.

This time, however, Mama is INTENT on summiting and via email missives, I have been informed that she is "pumped!" and has been "working out like a fiend!!"  Great.  I seriously could not be LESS thrilled....

Anyhoo, as I said, two dread weeks 'til that fresh hell, so in the meantime, I am keeping busy during the winter holiday from school (the students get one month off, mid-June to mid-July, ostensibly the coldest time of the year here) by continuing to take kids who need medical care to various clinics as well as overseeing Vumi and gang's initial "tuition" of the 2015 class.  A blog post on our epic days spent at various departments at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center is forthcoming (with gory details on everything from jugs of earwax to full-body scabies), but for now, a note on "tuition," Tanz-style.

Here in TZ, when one uses the word "tuition," it does not refer to school fees, but rather to the act of tutoring or the tutorial lessons themselves.

We have engaged a Standard Two teacher from Msaranga Primary School to conduct tuition year-round, after school and during vacations, for the kids who do NOT need the intense intervention of Toa Nafasi, but who still require some support.  Like Standard One's Mama T, this mwalimu is also of the old guard and even though she is approaching retirement, she is willing to help us out with remedial lessons for a small price.

For the kids who DO need the Toa Nafasi program, Vumi leads the tuition sessions supported by Yacinta and the four young teachers-in-training, and since we are late to do just about everything this year, Vumi thought it would be a good idea to get the party started over the month-long winter holiday.  So even while school's out at Msaranga Primary, Toa Nafasi is in the hizzy, maximizing the most of our time.

It's not ideal but because assessment was late, parent interviews were late, and attending medical clinics has been late, the 2015 Standard One students who were tested back in April/May are really just now benefiting from the program.

While on vacation, Vumi is teaching the group en masse for the most part with some of the other teachers providing additional support to those kids who we already know are really behind.  Once school starts up again, they will revert back to business-as-usual as they did with the 2014 and 2013 classes, pulling the kids out in small cohorts, teaching them for short, intense periods each day, and then returning them to the Standard One classroom.

This year we are working with approximately 53 students.  I know that number seems high (especially when compared with 2013's 21 children), but we are being extra-cautious when it comes to testing and even reading the results.  

Because Angi has not been in-country the last two years at the time of testing, Vumi and I have had to make do on our own with what we learned from her, and so I think the number of kids in the Project now is higher because we would rather be safe than sorry and not leave behind any child who might just be on the cusp.  My guess is that after working with Vumi and the team for just a few weeks, a good portion of these 53 will be back on track and can attend regular tuition provided by the school rather than the intense intervention from Toa Nafasi.  We shall see!  Meantime, peep these pics below!!

Yacinta does a math lesson and the kids
practice drawing the digits in the air.

Vumi stops to check on a child's progress.

Clara sits with a small group.

Yacinta puts in some one-on-one face-time.

When the teachers are busy, sometimes a friend can lend a hand....
....or you can try to work it out on your own!

A pint-sized Rodin!!
A pair of scribes.
The classroom is never complete without Vumi's daughter, Grace.
Last Friday, the kids received their Toa tees!!

G had actually already been given one long ago,
but she raised such a ruckus, I gave her another.
I think she looks like Fievel from An American Tail.
Agree or disagree?

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