Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tent Schools

Paula’s first work in Namibia was with the Ondao Mobile School Project.  A positive aspect of Namibia’s Independence was free education for all children in Namibia.  The Himba people are nomadic herders who move to water and good grazing.  They also maintain a traditional lifestyle with traditions including clothing.  Traditional government schools did not meet the needs of the Himba children and with funding from Norway and the US, the Ondao Mobile School project started to provide education for the Himbas in tent schools that followed the movement of groups of people.  Paula and others from PLU and Norway trained teachers and so part of our comparative education focus is to allow our students to visit tent school sites.

Scouting the conditions

Uanee drove and we all climbed back it

We drove on a tarred road for perhaps 4 km, and the rest of the travel was on bumpy dirt roads, that became even more challenging once we made the turn for the school.  As we were buying maize, sugar and oil to provide food for the learners, Uanee spotted Moses in the parking lot of the OK grocery store.  Fortunately we invited him to join us, otherwise I don’t know how we would have spotted the turn.  This was the first time we had visited this site, but they were expecting us.  Matthew, one of the teachers had gone through Paula’s training.  He was sitting under a tree waiting for us as we arrived.  Unfortunately he was in tremendous pain—he struggles to walk with a cane so I am not sure of the issues, but a student had Advil with her and was able to provide him some relief. 

Inside the Church property with the younger teacher

New pencils!

When we walked into the structure (a local church hall) that the Grades 3-4 learners use during the week, the students were just sitting quietly, but immediately stood as Paula and I entered.  I said “Good morning Learners,” and they responded “Good morning Teacher.”  I thought they would sit after the formal greeting, but they waiting for my hand motion and “Please sit” before they would sit.  There were 25 learners in a mix of western and traditional dress.  All those students wearing traditional dress were on one side of the room, and the others in varying states of uniform and western clothing were on the other side.  There were two learners for each chair, and often 8 learners were crowded around 2 desks.  Perhaps the close proximity to each other and the sharing of seats was one of the reasons they sat separately.  My mind did wander to the book title, Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? 

 I don’t have an answer and when we walked across the yard to the actual tent with Grade 1 and 2 learners, the crowding was the same, there was an age mix, so not all 6 and 7 year loads, and there was a mix of clothing, but there was no pattern to how they sat.  Even a girl who was either very tall, but most likely at least 12 years old, was sitting among the smaller children.  The younger group sang Christian songs to us and we responded by singing our National Anthem and a couple of songs our students knew from church.  It was a nice exchange.  We then presented the learners with new pencils, and gave the teacher supplies we had brought.  Our students were at kid level helping sharpen pencils and try them out on half sheets of paper.  Students also received a sticker on their hand and we gave the rest of the packet to a smiling teacher.

Grade 1 and 2 learners

All ages want to learn to read.  Hair pulled down in the front indicates pre-pubescent
The colorful beads indicate they are Zemba related to Himba

Megan and MeKenzie enjoying their interactions

It is always easy to find learners to carry food.  Mostly the boys are chosen, but I asked the girl if she was strong and wanted to help.  

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