Monday of Tutoring Week 2 dawns cool and breezy with clouds scattered over the lake. It’s really beautiful. During the 9:00 session I work on the budget. It’s really easy, because Tanzania generally doesn’t believe in receipts. 🙂 There’s a discipline problem in one of the sessions, which I get called in on. Discipline is difficult here, because when children are confronted they look at their feet and speak very softly—the culture views that as being respectful, but it means I can’t hear a word they say, when they even say anything. In general we have to pass those situations off to a staff member, who will talk to them in Swahili and get things sorted out.
After chai I sit in on a Standard 3 maths class, which is covering multiplication and division. I’m no expert on elementary ed, but it seems to me that there are two key problems with the math education the children are receiving here: 1) they’re pushed on to complex exercises, such as long division, before they have the basic skills necessary (e.g. math facts) to do or even understand them; and 2) they don’t seem to be taught maths in a way that instills a love of the subject; even the children who can do the problems don’t seem to desire to learn the material or see a practical use for it. It’s all just theory to them, something to be avoided. Add to that their facility with copying off their neighbors’ papers, and you have a recipe for poor execution. It seems a shame how much time has been lost in preparing these children to move higher on the educational ladder. We have to remind ourselves that these children need our love more than our help with a specific set of skills, but it would be nice to help them make some progress in something that will be essential to their adulthood.
For lunch Rachelle has made actual mashed potatoes—an American staple, but not something you see around here very much. I take a peek in the big pot in the middle of the table and assume it’s beef vegetable soup, but it turns out to be a very substantial gravy for the potatoes. Wow, comfort food at its best. I feel obligated to say here that it couldn’t possibly be as good as what the team members’ mothers prepare at home, but it’s very good, and we burn through it in no time. While the cleanup crew—Asher, Sarah M, and Sarah S—takes care of the dishes, we sit around the table and swap stories about our various adventures. There are some pretty good stories represented.
We have some chores to do today—move several jugs of drinking water from the offices up to the house, and the guys need to take down the laundry that was done for us today—so we have some time to do that in the afternoon. About halfway through the 3 pm tutoring session, Asher calls for help with his math class—this is the most behaviorally challenging group—and I work with a couple of students while he works with the other 3. This is a different group from this morning, and once again, there seems to be no comprehension of the mathematical ideas underlying the operations the students are being asked to do. Any random number will be offered as a possible solution, no matter how illogical in the given situation. In this case we’re just going over problems from the standardized test that each student has missed, and making progress is like pulling teeth.
At game time they play Red Rover—they seem to like it a lot, even though I think of it as primarily a mechanism for generating wrist injuries in children. Then there’s some kind of fight that breaks out with foam swords, under Matt’s supervision. I’m back at my room at the time, and I hear a lot of shouting, and it sounds as though everyone’s having a fabulous time, so I guess it’s all good.
And then somebody notices that the cow has wandered from the front of the property down to Shangazi’s house, and pretty much everybody gets involved capturing her and then getting out of the way while Asher valiantly leads her back up front and ties her to an immoveable object.
Supper for the children is daga, but I notice that the team is served a different entrée, the larger fish that we had a few days ago. I guess the cooks heard that some of us had a bit of a difficult time with the daga and voluntarily fixed us something else. That’s kind of them. Frankly, I wouldn’t have done it, but it’s nice of them to attempt to please our American palates.
For house devotions my group is starting with the 5 preschoolers this week. These children are brand new to Tumaini, with very little exposure to the Bible, so we have to ratchet down what we’re doing considerably. We’re planning to talk about the attributes of God and end the week with a simple gospel presentation. Tonight is God’s greatness; they’ve just spent a week talking about Creation so we figure that will mesh nicely. We begin with singing “My God Is So Big,” and Caitlin tells how God made everything, even us. At that moment little Kelvin, sitting on my lap, bursts out in a lusty rendition of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” and we all join in, commenting on every verse that God made that animal too. Moo, moo. Kelvin says, “God made fish!” and I say, “Yes, He did! Fish just like the ones who used to be in the big fish farm next door! But the owner of the fish farm embezzled, and so it’s not there anymore! So you need to learn not to embezzle!” By the end of the session we’re laughing hysterically. We have no idea if the children get any of this at all, but we get through it. I’m reminded that I’m really, really, not an Early Childhood kind of guy.
We have a number of testimonies during team devotions, and it seems as though the team is seeing how God is working in and through them, in the difficult times as well as the less difficult. One team member in particular had an especially rough day of teaching experience, so pray for that one especially. Thanks.