Continuing in my series, last week was a tough week for a teacher. Certainly, as described below, I deemed my lesson planning a personal success. The catch is that if you count ’em up, I only taught three classes last week. Normally I teach six.
The first class that did not show up was my Tuesday afternoon. This was the same class that a week earlier had not shown up, but after consulting with other teachers, I realized this could be attributed to there not having been any electricity (stima in Kiswahili). But after a second week of not showing I go talk to the principal. He is shocked and immediately calls the classes head teacher or something. He is told by the teacher that the entire class has deemed my class unnecessary. And he supports it! So not only am I fighting cultural atitudes towards changing, im fighting teachers who are supposed to be educating the ignorance out of these students! Tuesday was a low day for me in teaching.
There was a high point though. The fabled Mr. Mutuli that Dai Kato keeps talking about has returned from Nairobi! The deputy director of National Youth Service for Technical or computers or something to that effect, who is also the one who requested a Peace Corps volunteer in the first place (as is my understanding at least), released Mutuli from his duties in Nairobi for an indefinite amount of time and allowed him to come back to Mombasa. Mutuli was able to meet with me, give me pointers, help out in class. He even liked my lesson plan with the music. It was a good sign.
Wednesday rolled around and I was supposed to start teaching the teachers, but I got wrapped up in an adventure in Mombasa instead. What adventure you ask? Why the adventure of picking up all my networking equipment. That is correct. About two weeks ago I submitted a written proposal to the Principal and Commanding Officer requesting funds to set up a small intranet LAN here in the NYS computer lab. They granted it with almost no hesitation and no questions asked. And last wednesday we went to pick up the equipment. Of course now the retailer dropped the ball and 4 hours of mucking around Mombasa in the NYS vehicle for a myriad of reasons had zero pay off except the assurance that the retailer would have the equipment on friday. But still, there was real money, real equipment, and real intention to get it all put together. For Kenya, this is operating at light speed!
Thursday was a repeat of Tuesday. No afternoon class showed up. In talking to Mutuli about this, and also why the students don’t interact with me during class, he said it was because they were afraid of me. He says there is a reserved atitutde held towards anyone in Kenya who knows IT, a pseduo fear-reverance. Compound that with the fact that I am a Mzungu, an American, and someone who speaks fluent English, and I guess it equals non-interactive students. That sucks. I am slowly trying to change it, and Mutuli basically yells at the kids to talk to me. Seeing kids interact with him and seeing how they interact with me is the difference between night and day. It’s ridonkulous. But hey, as long as they are learning.
Fridays class did not show up at all either. So I taught Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. I wish I had known Friday was not showing up because I could have visited friends or whatnot. But on Friday we did get our hands on the network equipment! Woohoo. So now all we need is the new classroom and some software which I need to acquire from a peace corps friend in mombasa town and we are good to go. More on the “Distributing Edubuntu in Kenya,” project later.