Thursday, 11 October 2012

Schools have now returned and I have started revisiting them after opening. I say they reopened but they are only now teaching the curriculum and assigning teachers classes. Bear in mind the schools opened on the 17th September! Not long after opening I went on trek to the North Bank, where I had not visited since July. The landscape has changed markedly since I was last there. The river is up a lot further at the ferry.  The corn has grown everywhere so some roads were completely enclosed and barely passable on my bike. I kept wondering if I was actually on the right road at some points. The bush is so green and fertile because of the rains you would think you were in a different country at times. It was really nice and tranquil in those places.
Basse Ferry (before rains)
North Bank
I squeezed my bike through here!

North Bank

I conducted my first workshop at the weekend on LCM, Learner Centred Methodology. It went well and the teachers were generally receptive, but the crunch will be whether their lessons will become more active. The school has invited me back to hold a material productions workshop next month. Teachers in The Gambia do not have the luxury of being able to order any kind of teaching aid from a catalogue that would be common place in a UK classroom. They literally have nothing to use or work with. We try to encourage teachers to make use of resources they find around them; cardboard boxes, sticks, stones, bottle tops. Another problem is that teachers struggle with ideas for teaching aids and also how to use them effectively. Part of my next workshop will be to show them how to make and use teaching aids such as number cards, number squares, dice effectively and the various ways in which the pupils can use them.

Basse Ferry (after rains)
I have also become involved with a newly opened ECD in Basse. Although my knowledge is more based at primary level, I have agreed to help as the teachers are not qualified and ECD teaching is, at times, very difficult. I am using Sarah’s manual, of which I gave them a copy. I went back today to see how they were getting on but they have not been doing the activities on a daily basis as advised. It will be a long road, but the teachers are willing and receptive which is half the battle here. I have also started to tutor a young boy in Grade 3. He has managed to get through 2 years of school without learning all his single sounds. He is a bright boy and his spoken English is not too bad. Unfortunately, this not the unusual here but the usual. There are a variety of reasons for this. Teachers work long hours here, from 8.20am to 6.20pm if they are on double shift (teaching 2 classes a day) so they do not get much time for planning, class sizes can be 40+, a lack of resources, but also as teaching is mostly chalk and talk, pupils do not get much of a chance to do activities or to discuss their learning with a partner or group or even on their own. They generally copy from the blackboard. Even the boys on my compound, in Grades 7-9, copy the vast majority of the work in their jotters from work the teacher has scribed on the blackboard. They are not given the chance to think or discuss their work or learning. It actually makes me want to cry at times. Don’t get me wrong, there are some teachers who do active lessons and give their pupils the chance to think and discuss, but these are in the minority. More work is needed here to support the teachers. Giving schools a budget to work with would be a start. At present schools are funded by the pupils and other donors giving money to the school fund. This is what the HT uses to pay for repairs to the school, painting, resources (if they have any), providing food at school based workshops, basically everything bar salaries.

Well I think I have rabbited on enough for today. Till next time!

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