“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Day 5 - First day on the job

Our walk to school
After breakfast, 15 nervous volunteers gathered in the main house lounge area to finally find out where we were working and sign all the paperwork. Tracey and I were thankfully both placed together at a community school 3kms from the lodge. There are 3 types of school in Zambia; firstly there are expensive private schools and then there are government schools, which up until 10 years ago were free to resident Zambians. But then they decided to start charging, which caused many children to drop out of school as their families simply could not afford the fees, so people started to teach these children at home and in their back yards, these places grew and became known as community schools. Today, there are many thousands of these schools and some have managed to build their own small classrooms to teach in. They are basic, poor and ill-equipped with teaching resources. Ours is called the "Delight Christian Academy" and was started in 2005. It has almost 100 children in 4 classes of kids aged between 2 and 9. We walked to our placement with Bridgit, one of the projects staff, and two other volunteers, Megan and Tasha, who were heading in the same direction as us. Project staff walk all volunteers to their placements on day one to show us the way, but we must find our own way back - it took us 45 minutes and was downhill over sand, a railway line and rubbish dump pathways. My blocked nose meant I suffered less than the others, but it was truly shocking.
Jacqueline teaching the baby class
Tracey and I are the first volunteers to ever work at our placement so no-one really knew what to do or what to expect. We were introduced to the headteacher, Consiegne Hambone, whom we quickly named "Cosi" as we could not pronounce his name. He found this highly amusing but battled on, giving us a short tour of the school and introducing us to 4 of the teachers; Memory, Vera, Jennifer and Jacqueline. The 5th teacher, Gwenda, was out at a funeral, so her kids were in with Vera's. They were jammed in like sardines in a room no bigger than a garden shed with not enough chairs to go round. The baby class, where I stayed, did not even have tables, and the kids worked, played and ate mostly on the floor. The fourth classroom, where Tracey stayed, was outside in the yard and made from wooden poles lashed together, a tarp over the top and bamboo matting tied round the outside. Each classroom had a chalk board but not much else. The place was filthy and the playground had been built on top of a rubbish pile with old shoes and carrier bags half buried in sand that had been piled on top. The toilet was a hole in the ground with a broken loo plonked on top and a large plastic tub filled with water for hand washing.
Memory's class in the yard
I watched the teacher conduct her lesson for ten minutes or so before she turned to me and said the most terryfying two words in the world....
"You. Teach."
I turned to see 18 tiny black faces looking up at me from the floor of that gloomy room and my mind went blank. "Heads, shoulders, knees and toes" was all I could come up with. So we played dancing and singing games til break time and when their food bags were opened, it quickly became apparent who were the poorest in the class. Some had cold chips, sausage and fried eggs, while others had 2 biscuits and a piece of bread or a ball of sticky rice. I followed the teacher's actions, opening the kids food parcels and drinking bottles for them and was confused that none were touching anything... then of course I was reminded where I was when all 18 kids closed their eyes and placed their hands together in prayer. As soon as the words were finished, the kids each took parts of their lunch and passed them to each other - it was amazing to watch; their automatic reaction to being presented with food, was to share it with each other. These kids were 2 and 3 years old. To share is not to lose here. To share is the norm. It's instinctive for these children.
Outside in the yard at school
We worked until 1145am when parents started to arrive to collect their children. Being the last week of term, they only go to school for the morning. So when Tasha and Megan arrived, we set off for the 45 minute walk back to the Sunbird for lunch, scaring the shit out of Tracey when she decided to walk through the grass verge where the snakes live!
The African midday sun was hot, the walk was uphill and my thick cold was making breathing hard, but we chatted together about the two different projects and how we might be better prepared for tomorrow. Whatever we decided to do, it was clear we would need supplies from town. So after lunch we shared a cab with a couple of other volunteers and went on the hunt for teaching resources and an internet SIM card. Both of which would need some local currency, so we aimed first for a bank. Fairly straightforward, if a little time-consuming, but we got some kwacha and headed down to the supermarket to pick up paper plates for drawing on, string and pegs for hanging them up with, teabags, sinus spray and the Zambian equivalent of Yop!
African sand-covered minging feet
Tired, hot and frustrated at the continued lack of available supplies (no posters paints sold anywhere, no paintbrushes and still no kit yamoyo's), we met up with the girls again and headed to the Backpackers bar for a Mosi beer or two.
Forgetting how quick the sun sets in Africa, we left it a little close to the mark to get back to the Sunbird before darkness fell, but we made it. After a dinner of leftover lunch, we spent the evening prepping the paper plates with numbers for the kids to colour in and sorting out the donated colouring crayons we had brought with us. Tomorrow would be better. We at least had a plan.

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