As I expected, teaching in Ethiopia is not really what I was expecting it to be. (I hope that makes sense!)
First of all, one of the other volunteers hasn’t shown up, after being denied a work permit. So, there are just two of us (plus a team of Ethiopian teachers) and we are having to combine some classes as a result. Secondly, this being a summer school they are a bit more relaxed about age restrictions – I’m realising that nursery ‘level’ doesn’t necessarily mean nursery ‘age’. In other words, I’m teaching children from age 6 right up to 16, in the same room…
Children come and go, too; the classes started quite small – even by Compass standards! – but seem to be growing day by day. How many more children are still to come seems to be anybody’s guess!
All this makes for a challenging but fun work environment. The school is at least well equipped for jotters, textbooks, pencils etc. And they have an abundance of possibly the most vital resource of all – enthusiastic learners. If that was all that were needed they’d be flying. The children love shouting out answers and are even more thrilled if they get a red tick in their jotters. Home time is celebrated with beaming smiles, high fives and cries of “bye, Mr Danken – see you tomollow!”
But another essential ingredient for success is effective learning styles – or maybe teaching styles. These children can copy anything from the board – and they do, even when I’ve told them not to! And they will happily repeat back anything you say to them, but is that enough? Is that really learning? Today for example, they all left knowing the word ‘prepositions’, but I wonder how many of them would actually be able to explain the difference between ‘in’ and ‘under’. This slightly archaic ‘memorise and repeat ad infinitum’ method is something I can’t hope to alter in the four weeks I have here (three, now). But hopefullt the children will have some fun experiencing different, more interactive approaches to education. At the very least, I’ll have fun giving it a go!
The school day finishes at 12pm – before that sounds too ‘cushie’, it’s honestly too hot by then to be able to function properly. The heat at morning break, when I walk from one school campus to the other, is about as much as I can handle. This morning, though, it was absolutely pelting with rain and our dusty path had become a river. The only way to reach school would have been by boat, and as such we were closed until the weather improved. It was like that snow week all over again!
And what of Nazret itself? A fairly nondescript town, strung out along the main road between the capital, Addis Ababa and the nearest port in the neighbouring country of Djibouti. Actually, I think the quickest route to the sea might be through Eritrea, but the two countries are still technically at war, so all the imports and exports go along this route instead. So it feels like quite a ‘transient’ place, with lots of trucks and lorries passing through. And, as it’s a popular stop-off point along the way, plenty of rather incongruous high-rise hotels. The place I’m staying at currently has a fleet of UNICEF vehicles parked up, presumably on their way to – or maybe from – the drought in the far south-east of the country. But there are also lots of children herding goats with sticks along the dusty paths, and women carrying piles of firewood or sacks of maize – or both – on their backs. A mixture of the modern and the ancient, in other words.
After some early disagreements, my stomach seems to be getting on extremely well with Ethiopian food. Azeb cooks a mean omelette for breakfast, and serves up some deliciously spicy dishes for lunch and dinner; meanwhile, colleagues are lining up to invite us round for coffee. Ethiopia is taking extremely good care of me; I’ll be sure to give something back during the remaining time I have here.