Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Focus groups

As Tracy mentioned I taught/ subbed for a few classes and just asked them questions to get the temperature of how things at the school are going.  Overall most of the students are very shy and quiet.  I was initially worried that it was because I was speaking English, but I have sat through some classes taught by the other teachers and the kids are just as silent (lack of participation is one of the biggest complaints from the teachers).  I think (but cannot get a straight answer out of anyone) that it is because they get pinched and insulted if they answer questions wrong or ask something deemed “stupid”.  Aside from the overall failure on tests I think student/teacher relations are the biggest challenge at the school.

I quick summary of the questions I asked are:

What do you like about school / favorite subject?
What do you not like about school?
What are the biggest challenges at school?
What is the role of Guidance & counseling?
What kind of clubs are there at Lehutshelo? 
What kind of activities would you like the school to offer?
What do you know about HIV/AIDs? Where did you learn it?
What do you enjoy doing outside of school?
What do you want to do for a living?
What could the teachers be doing better?
What can I do? How can I help?
What would you like to learn at school that you are not being taught?
If there was one thing to change at the school what would it be?

The answers to “What do you not like about school” were interesting.  Some things were of course reoccurring.  No class seemed to enjoy the practice of corporal punishment…  Fighting and stealing seemed to be less of an issue for the older classmates (Btw, this is not nearly enough of a sample size, but I’m not a scientist.  I only sampled 6 classes – 3 Form 1s, 2 Form 2s and only 1 Form 3 class.  I hope to do more and see if some of my assumptions are right), so I wonder if the older kids are the ones stealing and beating up the younger ones.  Also there were issues of bad tasting food and sometimes no food, no hot water for showers (for the boarding students) and the toilet facilities were a problem for the older classes, but not mentioned in the Form 1 classrooms.  I think this is because the Form 1 students have not spent a winter (it gets cold enough to frost up windows) without hot water for showers and have not spent 2 years+ eating the same diet over and over again.  That is one of my new undertakings: finding out the cost and raising funds to get the hot water heaters fixed.  Unfortunately it won’t get done by this winter, but they said they have adapted since it has been out for years already.  (I talked to the boy’s body master and he said they have not worked since he has been there since 2007)

In response to “What are the biggest challenges at school?” the issues of teacher shortages and teacher’s attendance came up a few times.  Some teachers skip classes and the students’ just sit there with nothing to do.  Often it is when teachers go out of town or want to grade exams during the end of each term.  As far as I can tell there is no system in place for substitute teachers.  The silver lining to that is the opportunity I have to talk to each class about these focus groups.  As I know more Guidance and Counseling exercises I will be able to handle free class time better also.

Classroom setup

At the board
Some of the kids

Last weekend I was trying to fix something and was using a sharp knife (anyone see where this is going?).  Of course it slipped and I was not using safety techniques, so I am now sporting 4 stitches in my index finger on my left hand.  So to tally it up, I had 3 stitches in my knee and 4 stitches in my finger.  Any guesses on which limb will need 5 stitches and when??

After I cut myself a good friend of ours, and my new running buddy, Dr. Yimmam picked us up and took us to the Hukuntsi hospital.  I have to say I am completely impressed with the local hospital.  They were fast and efficient, but also had great “bedside manner”.  I was in and out within an hour and got antibiotics and pain pills.  I don’t know if they are billing the Peace Corps, but they did not ask me for a dime (or a 10 thebe coin)!  Dr. Yimmam dropped us back at the house and I just took it easy for the rest of the day.  I am still a bit grouchy but recovering ok.  Hopefully this will end our spree of injuries.

1 comment:

  1. Dumela.... I've been reading a series of novels, "The #1 Ladies Detective Agency", which are set in Botswana. Every time I'm reading one, I think about you all and wonder how you're doing.

    I don't know if you've talked to Rob lately or not. Has he told you Jerry got a new kidney? It happened Derby Day!!! He's doing much better now.

    Love to you both