Posted by: kam6761 | May 15, 2008

Back to School

So my first week back to school is almost over, and I must say <!– @page { size: 21cm 29.7cm; margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } –>

So my first week back to school is almost over, and I must say that I’m breathing a sigh of relief. Seeing my learners was wonderful, but I think many of their brains are still on holiday! I tried planning “fun” activities for this week to cut down on any potential behavioural issues, but alas my planning was not good enough. One of my most common Namlish (Namibian English) expressions these days is “making noise,” which is pretty self-explanatory. I’ve also recently adopted a Namibian grunt, which generally comes before or after me saying, “You are making noise!” Anyway, on top of my classroom issues, I have big-time SCHOOL issues.

Our school is scheduled to hold a fundraising bazaar in two weeks and it is throwing the entire school into a state of chaos. I’m not sure if I’ve ever written this or not, but the atmosphere at my school has always been incredibly tense; the bazaar has “broken the camel’s back.” Over the past few days, I have:

  1. witnessed multiple shouting matches between teachers

  2. gotten into an argument with a colleague who told me “I shouldn’t be talking because I don’t understand the problem,” when in fact I did but was merely disagreeing (I should also mention that his words led me to believe he thinks I’m not capable of understand the problem… because I’m a woman)

  3. been warned against getting involved in the bazaar committee, because it inevitably results in tons of arguments and accusations of corruption and mismanagement

  4. been specifically warned not to get involved with the money of the bazaar, because the money in particular creates a plethora of problems and accusations

So, of course, I have been elected treasurer of the bazaar committee. I’m sure this will be interesting, and I hope that I’ll make it through this alive. My job doesn’t stop at bookkeeping, but extends to other “bazaar committee” tasks such as:

  1. Procuring livestock animals

  2. Asking people in my village (most of whom don’t speak English) to donate money to the school

  3. Collecting firewood

  4. Preparing traditional Namibian food and drink such as oshikundu

I am not qualified to do any of those things, with perhaps the exception of collecting firewood, and even then I’m not sure if I would know what I was doing.

Another fun and exciting issue is that of missing books from the library. I noticed throughout the first term that teachers were just walking out with books, and that books would suddenly just go missing, but I wasn’t sure how best to fight it. Then this Monday I brought a pile of books to the library that Daniel’s parents had brought—namely, Bibles. All of the kids at the school are Christian but there isn’t one Bible in our library, so I had asked for them to bring a few. Being the incredibly generous and wonderful people they are, they brought really nice, leather-bound Bibles. The teachers swarmed around them like moths to a flame. Even some of my colleagues that I KNOW don’t attend church and don’t consider themselves devout were absolutely fascinated by them. To deter theft, I wrote “OPS” (Omungwelume Primary School) along the outside of the pages, and also filled out the “To/From” information dedicating each book to the library. Yesterday I came in to find one of the Bibles missing. I asked around and, of course, nobody knew where it was. I am so absolutely incensed. It just baffles me that someone would knowingly steal a BIBLE from a primary school’s library (the irony must have escaped them). One of my colleagues mentioned that English Bibles are incredibly rare here, and the ones that do exist are tattered and old, but I refuse to accept that as an explanation for stealing. I’m hoping that my inquiring after it will guilt the culprit into sneaking it back in, but even then I wonder what will happen to them as soon as I leave.

To end on a happy note, I should mention that Daniel’s parents brought TONS of wonderful things. My sister had sent them over with arts and crafts supplies, which I have already put to good use and the kids absolutely love (I forgot to take pictures, but I promise to post some soon!). They also brought baseball bats and balls, and the kids were having an absolute ball with them a few days ago. We’re still trying to master hitting the ball, but once we get that down I think we’ll attempt to actually play a game of baseball!

“Meme Tao” also entrusted me with two thank you cards for Meameno and Paulina (the two girls who helped me to prepare a traditional Owambo meal for the Taos). Watching them read their cards was so incredibly touching. At one point, when the Taos were here, Mrs. Tao was trying to explain to Meameno and Paulina that she really appreciated them. She said the word “precious,” and after she learned that they didn’t know what it meant, she took the time to explain it to them. It obviously seemed like their first exposure to the word, but nonetheless they both had locked the word away in their minds and understood what it meant upon reading it in their cards. Just to make sure that Paulina understood, I asked her to explain to me what precious meant. The biggest smile spread across her face and she proudly replied: “There’s not many like me.” This melted my heart for multiple reasons (I will now give you these reasons in list form, being as lists seem to have become a theme of this post):

  1. She had remembered exactly what Mrs. Tao had said, which indicated to me that the moment had been an incredibly special one to her

  2. She obviously felt incredibly special, honoured, and (if you will!) precious

  3. Anytime Paulina exhibits her intellectual prowess I’m touched (weird, I know. I actually think I’m beginning to feel like her Mom…)

And, while I’m on the subject of developing unhealthily strong attachments to “my kids” (yet another indication—yes, I actually call them that to people), I should mention Laina. Some of you may remember her from Dan’s “Who are these Little People?” post, but if not I should mention that she’s an incredibly cute Grade 1 learner at my school that often visits our house and must have recently decided that she needs to constantly be close to me. Every time I have come across her this week she has greeted me with a gigantic hug, followed by grabbing my hand and insisting to walk with me wherever I’m going. Yesterday when she was at our house I gave her some paper to draw on because I was busy marking exercise books, and when she finished she handed the paper to me with the proudest smile on her face. “Miss Kathryn,” she annouced as she pointed to a block-headed lady with gigantic hips on her paper. Next to “me” was a smaller, less block-headed figure. “Who’s this?” I asked her, pointing to the figure. With the cutest smile on her face she replied (in a DUH-sort-of-way), “LAINA!”

We’re not even halfway through our assignment and I’m already dreading leaving these kids at the end of the year. The joy they bring to my life is completely immeasurable.



  1. Dear Kathryn: It is wonderful to see you back at work with some play as well and hopefully rested enough form your holiday to tackle, yet again, the challenges and struggles of a tecaher’s life. We are happy to know you had a wonderful visit with family and were able to see many magnificent places within Africa. Your blog entries always bring a smile to my face and touch my heart in incredible ways. Happy return and many more good memories in the making. Love Aunt E.

  2. this post brought tears to my eyes in a few different places… aahhhhh 🙂

    i love reading about the PRECIOUS children there who love you so much! the fact that they just want to be around you so much and will routinely stop over to your house to play and help you prepare food and clean your house is just soooo touching! and it speaks volumes on the impact you and daniel have had in their lives 🙂

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