The village people are very friendly and have warmly welcomed me. Many adults will greet us, and say karibu (welcome). Recently as I was walking home from school a lady on the road called “karibu”, and stopped to talk, she has seen me often and wanted to know all about me. She walked with me, holding my hand, and we had a good conversation. She (Grace) now hugs me each time I see her, and has invited me to visit her house sometime. It is the custom here for younger people to greet older people with the word “shikamoo” which means “I give you respect”. The answer to that is “marahaba” which is “I accept your respect”. It is a lovely custom which is used a lot, and many kids say it to me. The local language, Kiswahili, is much easier to learn than Sepedi (the language in Ofcolaco, South Africa).
I teach at Edmund Rice Secondary School, which began in 1991 after the local community asked the Catholic Church to help because there was no secondary school here. It is run by the Christian Brothers, and has very good facilities due to fundraising and support from international communities, particularly from Australia. It’s a pleasant 15 minute walk from home through bush garden plots and another section of the village. There is about 100 staff, but I am the only white teacher here (though Br Clem, an Australian works in admin); all the others are Tanzanians and a few Kenyans, which is good. The school motto is, “Hope Through Education”; encouraging the students to study and work in the hope for a better future for the individual, the community and the nation.
The students at school are just lovely; so friendly and polite. I am teaching English in the Special Program and mentoring and supporting Humphrey – the local Special Program teacher. He only graduated mid last year, so hasn’t much experience. He relates really well to the kids though, has lots of ideas and is enthusiastic. The program is designed for the Grade 7 students who have come from a primary school system where the teaching language is Swahili into a secondary system where all subjects are taught in English. Edmund Rice School has a very good academic record, and it realises these new students need a lot of extra help with reading, writing and spoken English to achieve good results this year, and set them up for a successful secondary education. But the children who have had very little English are struggling, so Humphrey and I have already begun extra tuition classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school. The school system here requires continual assessment testing to be done three times a semester, and these students scored less than 30% in our first testing.
Fran Hewitt recently finished her first Palms’ placement in South Africa. She is now volunteering at Edmund Rice School in Engosengiu, Arusha, Tanzania.