#9 School and Math Teaching

#9 School and Math Teaching      June 24, 2015

Yesterday I said I would write about school, then got so sleepy I cut it short.  Also, I happened to re-read #8 (after the fact) and noticed I had left out a very important word when talking about M.  I failed to say it is M’s mother who is the alcoholic, not M!

I have been going to SFG every day, sitting in on some classes, not doing a lot of teaching in class, but taking 5 girls at a time to the library for special help.  The form 3 and 4 teachers have chosen the 5 lowest performers in each class.  Sometimes I work with them during class time, but I do hate to take them from class, so I like to take them for ½ hour at the end of the lunch break.  With such a small group, I can address everyone’s questions.  I can see the smiles of understanding and when I don’t see them I ask the non-smiler where is the point of misunderstanding.  And I don’t stop until I see that smile.  Whether they retain it is another point; I’ve learned that well enough, but again, I try to explain WHY we do what we do and show them short cuts that keep them from getting lost in the morass of computation.  I’ve been observing teachers and trying to show them how to be more efficient and cut down on the repetitive re-writing of equations.  It’s hard to change those habits of a lifetime, but they do seem to see the benefits.  I’m concentrating this year on showing the students how to take less time to answer a question, doing it thoroughly and carefully, but also efficiently.  We’ll see.

M came again today after school.  She brought an exam and a few questions from her current lesson.  I’m so impressed with how fast she learns.  She didn’t have a whole lot of things to ask about, so I suggested maybe she wouldn’t need to come tomorrow.  She would have none of that!  I may have an afternoon visitor every day!

She tells me next week she will go to a music competition.  As I’ve written before, competitions are a big thing here.  She sings in the school choir, but also performs solo.  She told me that last year she had gone quite far in the competition, but the principal at the school where she was then could not provide the transportation for her to return the next day to compete for the finals.  This year I believe she will be able to stay because her guardian can support the transport.

We talked about her possibly joining the parish choir.  As I’ve said, there are 3 choirs here, all fabulous.  She would love to sing with them, but the rehearsals end well after dark and I would not want her walking home alone.  However I know some of the people in the choir and will ask whether a responsible person with a car would be able to take her home safely.

Tonight was Rotary night and upon arrival I was pleased to see my old friend Fr. Makerios.  He’s an Egyptian priest, but belongs to a Canadian order of priests.  He came here some time ago and proceeded to found St. Theresia’s center for Abused Children.  I’ve written about it in the past, but just let me say that it is an A-1 program, a beautiful building, wonderful staff and they do a fabulous job with those children.  He came to Rotary, along with a volunteer also Egyptian who did a PowerPoint presentation.  Part of it was heart-breaking, with pictures of the physical abuse some of the children have experienced.  But I’ve been there and seen the results of the counseling, love, good food and medical care they get.  Those children are transformed in time.

They were at Rotary to request support to install a solar system.  Their monthly electric bill runs about $1500, which their budget can’t support.  They use much of it to make sure the children have warm baths and showers.  There are 64 children currently in residence, so that’s a lot of hot water.  After the presentation there were many questions about the home, the program and the proposed solar project.  Then one of the members, one of 2 mzungu members of that club announced that a foundation he is part of, which runs a rescue center for homeless kids gets a lot of contributions and that foundation would cover the costs for Fr. Makerios!!!!  $50,000!!!!  Wow, I almost fell off my chair and so did Fr. M.  It was a great evening.

Tomorrow I am going to Nairobi to the Maasai Market.  It is an overwhelming experience, with a huge variety of goods and many, many vendors, each of whom is my best friend who will give me the best price.  Because this is not a place for me to go alone, Ben, the parish accountant will take me.  He does much of the bargaining for me, but they all know he is buying for me.  They ask why is he trying to talk them down from their ridiculously high initial offer, when they know it’s for a mzungu, all of whom are known to be rich.  He has to explain that I’m not rich and why I buy the items I buy.  Some understand and come down.  Some do not.

It’s hard to think of going to that market without Jecinta, the wonderful parish social worker who died 1 ½ years ago.  We all miss her so much.  She would always go to the market with me and she could bargain like no one else I ever saw.  Sometimes I’d be embarrassed at how low she got them to go.  Sometimes I’d say, “Jecinta, that price is OK,” but that would make her mad – well not mad, but she loved the bargaining process, and didn’t like my interference.

I promise to take pictures for tomorrow’s post.  I have searched all of my 10,000 photos I’ve taken over the past 11 summers for a picture of Fr. Makerios’s center, but I can’t find any.  Can’t imagine I would have deleted them.  Must have been those pesky gremlins again.






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