Friday, 15 February 2013

In My Opinion!

Continuing on the theme from my previous Blog. I thought I would give you the joy of reading some 'opinions' expressed in a recent piece of homework I set for Year 6, here in Bujumbura.
Haven't got any real 'Wild life' photos - so it will have to be
 'Two lizards on the wall.'
As part of our round of weekly spelling tests, I thought I would introduce some genre specific vocabulary! As a rule I ask the students to put each spelling word into a sentence. But this time I thought I'd make a little bit more interesting (challenging). So I asked them to try and use the words in a short discussion written from the question, "Should wild animals be kept in  Zoos?"
This I felt was a relatively easy discussion topic to talk about.
How wrong was I?
Have a read and see what you think about the Burundian understanding of Zoos. I might add, that there is a zoo in Bujumbura. It has a crocodile and goats and guinea pigs. That latter two are kept as food for the former. I'm told you can buy a live guinea pig to feed to the crocodile. I'm not sure how true that is. But there is no way I'm visiting the place to find out!
Anyway here goes....

"In my opinion I think that wild animals should be kept in zoos because if they are wandering around and a little child is wandering around the wild animal will think to do something harsh to them and it can cause lots of trouble and pain and it will be hard for the child's parent to know about it. But if it is kept in the zoo in some cages nothing can cause trouble but you would just have to go and see the animal youself in the zoo. That is why wild animals should be caught and kept in cages at the zoo."

" If animals weren't kept in Zoos they would be everywhere and eat people. But if they were kept in the zoo they wouldn't run around town and other places eating people.."

" At present wild animals can't come to zoos. They are not allowed to come because they might get wild on other animals. Should this be the case? Should wild animals be kept in zoos?
   Firstly, there is the rule that wild animals can't be kept in zoos. Nevertheless, it's the zoo guards responsibility to keep the rule.
   On the other hand, the wild animals should be kept in zoos because even though they are called wild animals, they are still created by God.
  In conclusion, my opinion is that wild animals should be kept in zoos, but only if they don't be wild."

"At present wild animals should live in the zoo because when they just live in the streets they would be eating people because for my opinion they would have no one to feed them and so they would eat anyone."

" Therefore, wild animals should not be be kept in the zoo because they are dangerous and it is possible they could break the cage and hurt so many people."

"Secondly, I think wild animals should not be kept in zoos because of safety of people. For example, if a person is capturing a photo and by mistake he puts his hand inside the cage, the wild animal can chop his hand off. Or if a person doesn't have enough money to buy a strong cage and he buys a wooden cage, maybe in anger the wild animal can just break the cage and cause disaster.
Lastly, I think wild animals should be kept in zoos so the people don't get bored looking at the same animals every time they come to the zoo."

" Firstly, people think that wild animals should be kept in zoos, but they don't think about how the animals feel. Even if we humans don't understand animals, it's no reason to put them in zoos.
My opinion is that all animals should be free not locked up in cages or other places."

" In my opinion animals should be kept in cages because if it's free out of the cage it will attack every human it sees. The human will be malevolent and they might even be bemused to everyone else.
Animals should be free from their cage so that they can get their own food chain.
In my conclusion I think that animals should be kept in zoos just in case they attack humans." This young man just loves to find new words in the dictionary and try them out in his writing!

" By the way, wild animals should not be kept in zoos. Imagine you are in a cage for your whole life, would you be happy? And God created a good place for each animal to live in. Normally, wild animals are not ment to be in zoos, so that they may learn the dangers of life."

" Wild animals should not be kept in zoos because the names of this animals are wild animals they should be in the wild so they hunt and survive by their own."

I think my understanding of the term 'Wild animal' and the Burundian understanding of the term differ somewhat!! Hey, Ho another lesson learnt by the teacher!

This week also saw the grand launch of our Rockets! I failed to catch any of the lift-offs on camera. I did however catch a few in the face. Our rockets decided to either launch instantly or wait so long everyone had given up paying attention, then the rocket would sneak a blast-off without warning.
So to close, my favourite quote...
" I think animals should be free, because they might die in the zoo, if the sign might say, 'Please Don't Feed the Animals.'"

Friday, 8 February 2013

And My Point is.....

Many years ago, after teaching for all of two years in England, I began to dream of teaching in a place where the children actually wanted to learn and appreciated the privilege they had, in having access to an education.
Well here I am!! 14 years later. At the King's School, Bujumbura, Burundi. Although, I have discovered that my dream was maybe just a tad idealistic, possibly a little fairy-landish.
Somehow, wanting to learn and having a better idea of the privilege of an education, doesn't necessarily make children 'Angelic'.
I have discovered some amazing similarities between children in Bujumbura and those in Earl Shilton, Leicestershire, England.
  • They love to fiddle with things - rulers, pencils, pencil cases, erasers. You name it, if it's on the table they will fiddle. Highlighter pens!! - you have no idea, the interesting things that can be done with a highlighter pen. Stacking, balancing, clicking the lid off and on. It's a cross-continental skill
  • Talking. Across the span of 4000 miles, children love to talk and they find it quite tiresome that teachers are not so keen on them undertaking the activity. Even a simple instruction, along the lines of 'don't-talk-whilst-I-am-talking,' meets with confusion and an inability to conform. Somehow it is just not possible for a child to hold a thought in it's head. Be that an African one or an English one. All thoughts have to be instantly released through the individual's mouth.
  • Paint - Children and paint. Same result Earl Shilton and Bujumbura. On the uniform! On the table. On the floor. On the face. On the neighbour. And just a bit where it is meant to go.
I wont go on any more just now!
However, I have also noticed some significant differences. Recently, I introduced my Burundian class to the concept of discussion and debate. It was not something they had come across before in school. They thoroughly enjoyed debating a range of issues.
Having addressed the issues of homework and uniform, we came to the subject of mobile phones. We looked at the question; Should children under 16 be allowed mobile phones?  I sat in stunned silence as I listened to some of the arguments 'For'.
"Yes, of course. Because what if you're home on your own and someone comes to rob the house. You would need a phone to get help. Because while the robbers were shooting the workers and killing them, you could phone your mum or dad to come and help you. "
"Or if you had an accident while your mum and dad were at work, you would need a phone then to get help. Because your mum and dad can't be there all the time, can they? Sometimes they have to travel for work and you have to stay at home on your own. Then if your little sister falls and breaks her arm, you would need to phone and get someone to take her to hospital."
"And what if someone came to your house to try and kidnap you. You could hide in the cupboard and phone your dad and tell him to come home and shoot them."
"And once do you know what happened. It was the middle of the night and these robbers crept into the house and they stole everything. But they woke my little sister and she cried out. My dad got his gun and chased them. And he started shooting at them and they ran away. And my dad got all the stuff they had stolen from us and all the stuff they had stolen from other houses. We got a great big TV."

Hmmm I thought, not quite what I usually hear, when debating mobile phones.

 We moved onto the topic of separating boys and girls for lessons. Should boys and girls be taught separately? After many points regarding the fact that boys and girls need to know how to get along. And although boys are very imature, it's better to have them around than not. One Rwandan lad stood up and with great aplomb announced,
' Boys needs girls to produce. Girls needs boys to produce. And that's my point.'
Ok, case closed!

It has been great fun introducing some practical activities into the Year 6 curriculum. I'm not sure but these may be Burundi's first Rocket Scientists.

There is enormous excitement surrounding the impending launch of our rockets, this coming Wednesday. Most of that excitement is mine! Because I'm getting to do a fun activity, without my hands tied up with all the Health and Safety strings, that I used to have in England! I might even be able to let the children go near the rockets and feel like they have launched them personally and not just watched me do it!!
I'm just wondering whether to go as far as the, 'custard powder + water, is it a solid or liquid?' experiment. It's great fun, but possibly a little too messy, for the limited cleaning facilities we have in a Burundian classroom. But I'm sorely tempted. Perhaps, we will stick to, 'Can you make a ball of plasticine float?' experiment.
As Harry Harrison would say: The world is my lobster!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

On a more serious note.

Blogging from Bujumbura, feels like it should be a serious business this week.

Inside a kiosk or stall, looking for wedding dresses, back in October.
It was hard to capture the situation on camera.
This stall was deep into the market, down a series of narrow alleys.
On Sunday the Central Market of the city, country, region was burnt down. It is so hard to even begin to put into words what that means for this country, for a number of reasons. My time here feels so short when I begin to try and understand what it means.
I have visited the market quite often in my 5 months. To me it was the most incredible place. The first time I visited, I felt such incredible sense of achievement that I had managed to survive the encounter without bursting into tears or curling up into a ball and refusing to budge!
The place is packed with people, all jostling each other as they move through the 'stalls'. The stalls (kiosks) are like nothing I have ever encountered before. They like large boxes, with shelves high up beyond the reach of a person standing. Every stall is rammed full of goods. What you see at the front is just a fraction of the goods on sale. The stalls are packed tightly together with just enough space for a person to pass between them. There are main thoroughfares where two or three people can pass. Then there is a labyrinth of tiny alleys. The whole thing is covered over by a massive roof, possibly about 30ft high, maybe more. The range goods on sale is phenonmenal. Everything, and I mean everything. Well maybe not everything. On a recent hunt for a Caffieterre, one could not be found in the market. But neither could it be found anywhere in the whole of Bujumbura!
The view of the smoke rising from the fire, at least 3 hours after it started.
For a person with a history of panic attacks and fear of crowds, it was strangely exhilerating to be able to walk in the place and sort of enjoy the experience. But that is what is was to me. A challenge to face and overcome. Everytime I went there it boosted my confidence. I was so looking forward to taking 'visitors' there, and saying look at this! But now it is no more. I've described it in the present tense, just because I still can't quite believe it's not there anymore.
That was what it meant to me. It seems so utterly trivial, when I start to think of what the place really meant. For hundreds of people it was their livelihood. Many lost, not only all their stock, but all their cash, which they kept in safes, locked away in their stall. For others it was their means of survival. One of the things I found heart wrenching each time I went there, was the severly disabled people, who sat or laid, begging for food or money. In England such people would be cared for in specially adapted homes and institutions. Here they survive, lying on cardboard mats, being stepped on and over by hundreds of people, waiting for a very small minority to give cash or food. No market, means no place to beg, which means no cash, no food. There is no other place where so many people pass by in a day. What more is there to say?
There has to be such much more, that I as a new comer, still don't understand or percieve. I have only scratched the surface of the layers of hardship that are going to be felt in the aftermath of this fire.

The smoke travelled across the city and blocked out the sun for much of the day.

This is not one of my photos, but one I found on the web. For me it captured the essence of the day.