Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ngilibhizi (nee-lee-BEE-zee)

That means “I’m busy” in siSwati, which I’ve had multiple occasions to say this week. I’ve been so refreshingly productive and, despite the fact that I fell asleep at 8 last night, I couldn’t be happier.

For starters, I had my second week of Life Skills classes and I’m really excited about the prospect for my future as a health/HIV/career guidance teacher. Turns out, it’s fun! This week I adapted the same lesson for all of my classes, but found that it wasn’t really necessary because even the 11th-graders didn’t know what the immune system was! (For real, these kids have had many years of biology in a country where an immune system-destroying disease is rampant, and they didn’t know what the immune system did! This is grievance number one I have with the education system.) Anyway, I gave a ten minute introduction to the inner and outer immune system components, then talked about macrophages, CD4s, B-cells, antibodies and T-cells and what they have to do with HIV. To demonstrate, I picked 12 kids out of the class to come up act out the different parts of the immune system and various invaders like TB, HIV, Flu and Malaria. Swazis are big on drama groups so they had a good time doing it, and by the end of the session the class knew exactly what was going on. Then we demonstrated what HIV does (it convinces Mr. CD4 to quit his job, and if he doesn’t it kills him) and how ARVs work in the body (they prevent HIV from being able to talk to Mr. CD4). Sure, it’s simplified, but it’s obviously more in-depth than what they’re getting in biology class. I also had several students approach me this week to talk to me privately about various HIV-related issues, which gives me a good insight into what they do and don’t know. Even some of the older boys asked me questions about HIV, which I was really surprised about. I’ve also gotten approval from the school and money from PEPFAR to host my HIV-related art competition at the high school, which is huge. It’s been a successful week!

I also taught Form 5 (Grade 12) English language this week because my lovely Deputy Head Teacher decided to go to Manzini to see a “preacher from America” who can cure HIV for a “donation” of 1200E. I tried to talk him out of it, but he was really adamant about paying some quack an exorbitant amount of money to give him false hope, so I agreed to teach his classes. We spent the week working on listening comprehension, which was a completely new concept to them despite the fact that a large portion of the exam they have to take to finish high school involves listening comprehension. I found a CD of 17 listening exercises in the deputy’s office and made my own worksheets out of the suggested assignments. We learned about Florence Nightingale, the Red Cross/Crescent and some guy’s travel arrangements for a trip to London. Or rather, about 40% of the class learned about those things and the rest just copied from their neighbor. We started the lesson each day with two vocab words (easy ones from the Oxford 3000 words English-learners should learn), and on Friday I gave them a simple test where they had to match the word with the definition. And they couldn’t do it. Or didn’t care to. I had two different versions of the test—one with letters A-J and one with K-T—and they so obviously copied from each other that some of the ones with the K-T test wrote the answers A-J on the answer part. It’s ridiculous! But it still didn’t help, since the average was a 40%. There were a few people who got 9 or 10 out of ten, but most got a 2 or less. Some left the whole test blank. And, honestly, what incentive do they have to try when the only grade that matters is the final exam? (Grievance number two with the educational system.) As a teacher who’s actually wants them to learn, it’s extremely frustrating for me. I could always turn in the names of the slackers to my deputy and he’d be happy to beat them all with a stick, but I personally don’t see how that helps. In fact, they beat every single student on the hand on Monday then half the kids in my class couldn’t write because their right hands were bleeding. Isn’t that counter-productive (and potentially spreading HIV)? (Grievance number three.)

I also taught my small business thing through TechnoServe on Friday, which was interesting. We had elections for all the management positions and had “report-backs” on market research assignments that not a single student completed. Okay then. Our top three final business ideas are (1) repairing desks (which the guy who’s co-facilitating with me did at his school last year, so he mentioned it to the class as an idea and they decided to copy), (2) tuck shop selling food and candy (of which there are already like 15 within walking distance of the school), and (3) painting the school (which is great if the school administration wants to pay us to do it). I’m personally rooting for number 3 because the other two are not original at all, but I have to meet with the notoriously unfriendly head teacher of the school on Monday to see what he thinks. The good news is, though, that since we now have a General Manager (Mfan’Khona Sihlengonyane is his name, which means “The boy is here” “we are beautiful” something something) I’m no longer in charge of running all the meetings! Yay! I’m just in charge of the money, and probably quality control if we end up painting (Mom has trained me well for the latter part).

In other news, today I’m in town to pick up my new external hard drive (I ordered the 500GB a month ago and he called Thursday and said they had it, but it’s a 320GB and he wants to charge me the same amount) and hopefully get a new anti-virus for my computer since it’s about to die. I also got a million packages this week, which means I’ve been watching about 2 movies a day (including Girls Just Want to Have Fun, The Devil Wears Prada, Flashdance, and Legends of the Fall which is amazing) and that I’ve neglected to do basic things like dishes and bathing. But it’s okay because Brandy sent me body spray so I still smell clean! It’s been a good week.

Next week I’ll be heading up to Mbabane for a meeting with PC about the youth support group we’ve been running for the past year and some. We had our last meeting on the 21st and the NGO that had offered financial support for the year showed up to tell us that they hadn’t been able to get any money. Great! And thanks for notifying us 2 hours before we needed the money! That’s how things go when you count on Swazi organizations, unfortunately. But we’ll figure it out, hopefully by our meeting on the 28th.

That’s all for today. I’m still working on Young Heroes, I promise. Things just take forever here. Unless I’m in charge.

Love from the Swaz!

Sisi Xolile and Bokhi. Bokhi is due sometime between the 18th and 21st of March, so I've cleared the week of all other responsibilities so I can be home when the babies are born.

This is the view from my latrine. There are maize fields everywhere!

Just to scare you (Erin and Group 7) this is the basin I bathe in. Or, rather, DON'T bathe in because lately it just seems like too much work. I smell lovely. :)


Erin said...

ok, now that's just mean to show me that. your so-called bathtub is ridiculous! if you start petitioning now for an actual bathtub, you may get one by the time i get there! (or else i'm bringing an inflatable kiddie pool with me!)

Erin said...

oh yeah, 252 days!

Jessica D. said...

I don't know what's worse... the size of your "bathtub" or how dirty the water is...

And to follow with Erin's tradition, 250 days!