Hi everyone, and hope this blog post finds you all well. This past week has been one of the busiest of my ENTIRE life, I think, as Mama is here and I have been spending time with her everyday, but also because we started the Kipindi cha Utafiti (Observation Period) at Msaranga Primary School.
re-testing the kids in the program from 2015 for the second time
(nearly all 50+ of them have made dramatic improvements), and using that
experience as an example of the Assessment Phase to the new teachers,
we started the process of the Project anew with Phase One - Observation -
of the Standard One students for the academic year 2016. Again, we are
using Msaranga as an example so the new girls can watch and learn from
me, Hyasinta, and the others who have been around longer.
went in and first took down all the kids' names and then had them stand
for photographs so we could more easily identify each child by face and
designation. This seems a simple task on the surface, but actually
here in Tanzania, it's not such an easy feat.
are a very interesting concept here, a fluid one, whereby a child might
have multiple names and multiple ways of spelling each. Rather than
first name, middle and last, people are known by first name, jina la baba (father's name), and jina la ukoo
(clan name). Because there are relatively few clans in Kilimanjaro
(maybe 20 or 30 really popular ones), the clan name is not such a great
differentiator. You hear these same names over and over again - Ngowi, Kessy, Macha, Swai - kind of like in Korean (Kim, Lee, Park, etc) and Chinese (Wang, Chung, Chu, etc.) cultures.
we like to go off the child's first name followed by the name of the
father. For example, if I was a Tanzanian, I would be Sarah David
rather than Sarah Alix Rosenbloom as I am known in America. I have
tried explaining to Tanzanians that Rosenbloom is not a clan name and
rather a family name, but this distinction is difficult to explain and
I'm not sure anyone cares.
arise for various reasons while we are doing this census-taking, many
of them revolving around this issue of names. The kids are unused to
the primary school classroom, having just entered in January: wearing a
uniform, being away from home for the whole day, under the supervision
of new teachers with big sticks and lots of others in the room, making
noise and creating a lot of confusion, expected to do tasks that they
are unfamiliar with. Then, we come in, a bunch of other Tanzanian teachers and some weird mzungu (me!),
asking a lot of questions and doing things that are even more
unexpected. They tend to clam up and speak in fearful whispers, or they
act out and try to get my attention, anticipating zawadi (gifts) from the white girl. It's hard to observe them naturally as my mere presence in the classroom is unnatural.
we ask them their names, we usually get a slow-blinking, open-mouthed
gape followed by the tiniest whisper which of course leads to mistakes
and confusion. Jennifer becomes Janet. Barnaba becomes Baraka. And on
and on. In addition, checking against the teacher's logs or seeing
what the parents have written on their children's notebooks may not
offer the clarification one might think. Written language is fluid here
and names can have multiple spellings. Jennifer --> Jenifer -->
Jenifa --> Jenipha.
even if we say a thousand times that we want their first name and their
father's name only, we will get a lot of crazy answers. Sometimes the
names are simple like "Alex Emanuel." We have had two of those in the past two years.
Other times, names are more exotic as in "Kelvin Kidogola" and we have
to determine whether the child has given us some foreign clan name or if
the baba has a more locally derived first name.
also the issue of the kids having more than one name themselves. Lots
of families give their children two first names, one for home and one
for school. And to make things even more confusing, these names might
be very similar. This year, we have a "Jordan Bariki" whose school name
is "Jackson." To heap another bewilderment on top of the pile,
Jordan/Jackson is a twin. The brother's name? "Johnson Bariki." Not
sure if that's his school name or home....
kids loooove getting their photos taken so if we go in one day and do
the rounds, the next day when we come back, we ask if we had missed
anyone the day before and the kids love to trick us and say they didn't
get their photos taken so we have to do it again! This creates
confusion and frustration for ME as the picture-taking is not meant to
be fun and games but rather a comprehensive way of knowing how many and
who we are dealing with. But since they're kids and they're cute as
hell, they get a free pass on this bad behavior. It's just annoying
after a long day at school, and then attending to my mom, to have to go
through 150 or so photos to make sure there are no duplicates and no one
has pulled the wool over my eyes!
matching up the kids' photos and names, we then try to observe each
child individually so we have a clue of what we're working with prior to
assessing them. Sometimes, the Standard One teachers are able to point
out who they have identified as a slow learner or who doesn't hear or
see well. This year, we have a few kids who will definitely need the
support of the Project, either via our pullout program of extra tutoring
or through referral appointments at the eye doctor or hearing clinic.
forms in hand, we make the rounds in the classroom, looking for issues
with motor skills, behavior, adaptive skills, self-management, and
social skills. If a child shows up to school very dirty or is quiet and
keeps to himself as opposed to playing with friends, we might make a
note of these red flags as well as the child's academic proclivities.
We have pretty much finished this process at Msaranga Primary so this
coming week, Hyasinta has divided the teachers (my Taylor Swift girl
squad!) into small teams, some of whom will go into the new schools to
do Observation there, others who will remain with us at Msaranga to
begin the next step, Assessment.
are looking at another VERY busy week and I am both happy about that as
well as mildly fearful. But I know that I am not alone, the teachers
are behind me, and with Vumi guiding us from above, we cannot fail. In
addition to observing at the new schools and testing in Msaranga, we
have a child headed to Gabriella for Therapy Week and one of the new
girls will go with him and his dad. Thursday, we have two kids to
attend the eye clinic at KCMC and Hyasinta and I will take them along
with their parents as we do not do referral appointments without the
presence of a guardian. I think my mom will also come with us so she
can experience firsthand the glory of the Tanzanian health system!
now, check out the photos and videos below of Observation from last
week. Feel my pain? Just kidding, it's hard work, but soooo
worthwhile. More anon!