Thursday and Friday this week I visited 7 local primary schools with results from their readings tests from the end of last term. It was the first week back at school so I wanted to start the term off visiting teachers I am working with and encouraging them to ‘soldier on’.
Here are some of the sad realities and interesting comments I received during my school rounds:
- A P1 (reception/kindergarten) teacher was absent because she was visiting her father, potentially nursing him to his death in the village.
- Another P1 teacher was absent: with her baby son in hospital – he was suffering pretty badly with malaria. The class had joined P2 for the day.
- A P3 teacher was absent. Her sister was close to giving birth in the hospital and she was her sister’s ‘attendant’.
- A head teacher was nowhere to be seen. One of the teachers told me they hadn’t been paid for teaching ‘extra lessons’ and she thinks he is ‘dodging’ the school.
- One teacher told me the children were slowly returning from holidays. One day there were only 9 children in the class so she thought there wasn’t any point in teaching (this provoked a long conversation between her and I).
- Another teacher told me she hadn’t started teaching yet. The school inspector was ‘on her neck’ about lesson planning and scheming so she was spending the whole week writing lesson plans whilst the children just sat there (provoking another conversation).
- A P2 teacher (year 1) was absent: she had fallen on iron sheets (tin) and cut her right hand quite badly.
- Another teacher told me how the children were returning to school but the head teacher kept sending them home for ‘requirements’ (toilet paper and a broom). They were not permitted to stay in school until they had their requirements (separate to school fees).
There were also many positive stories from the visits. Teachers were enthusiastic; seeing the results made them want to work even harder this term and some were determined to prove to me that their children would improve much more this term.
But what I found even more encouraging was the freedom with which I now move around these local schools. Many head teachers and teachers greet me with a hug, one teacher even gave me a bunch of bananas when she saw me. I have a good relationship with both the head teachers and teachers and we can be ‘frank’ with each other. They recognise I am here to help them and appreciate the encouragement. It doesn’t mean it’s an easy journey, but we are making progress. Slowly slowly…