Week 1 … Check!
The Internet has been spotty for the past few days, but we have just completed our first week of school at NISE! We were swarmed on Wednesday with dozens of learners’ hugs and smiles getting off the bus, but we were lead quickly towards the school’s presentation center for an official welcome. We were welcomed in prayer and through song. The choir performed two songs that brought tears to all of our eyes. We then decided that we had to “sing” for them. Somehow the Hokey Pokey and the Wisconsin MILK song were our songs of choice. All the supplies that were donated and collected were presented to the students and faculty. The sheer amount of supplies in the performance area was daunting and so exciting for the learners.
We were surprised to find out that the teachers were to attend a meeting at the end of the day on Wednesday and we, the university students, were to teach the classes. Chelsea and I taught grade 8 and grade 10 together. We started a lesson about myths. The students were not engaged, inattentive and frankly quite bored with school. All Chelsea and I had to do was look at each other and we told the learners to stand up, clear the center of the classroom of desks and chairs, and split into 3 groups. The learners had never played the human knot game, so we decided to start with this team-building activity! We ended up playing a whole class human knot and the students found so much joy in completing the task! We then went outside and facilitated an activity entitled “Oh Elephant!” This was an activity I learned in Natural Resources last semester and involves outcomes of population, resources and threats to the environment. The “elephants” were to run to the other side of the pebbled courtyard and retrieve a “resource” they needed to survive (water, air, food, shelter). The resources made a corresponding noise and hand motioned to signal the type of resource they held. Sounds and motions were incorporated in order to include the students with and without vision. We talked about the rise and fall of population in relation to the amount of resources available and were able to manipulate the game by adding hunters or limiting the type of resources. We received a special note from the 8th and 10th grade learners thanking us for all the fun they had!
Today the coaches (myself included) and Prof. Caro completed our observations of grade 5 and tactfully left suggestions for successful achievement in the classroom. We have started to develop a schoolwide PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports) plan for the teachers to implement. We have discussed using a leveled color system to signify appropriate and desired behavior. The principal has encouraged us to present our ideas to the faculty!
The children are becoming more inspiring each day. There is an element of sadness to know that corporal punishment is still used here on occasion, yet also an element of joy and relief to know that these learners have somewhere to learn, grow, eat and sleep when there is a lack of paternal engagement. I was able to see the hostel where the children live today. It was eye-opening to say the least; 6-7 bunks in a small room was all that existed, but the children were so excited to show me their colorful bedding and just which bunk was theirs! Today was the first day in which I worked with some of the students with complete blindness. They are so wise and require so much more sensory input. Some of the learners with blindness haven’t always a been blind so they ask me the color of my jacket, or my hair, or what I am holding. A grade 3 student, Emilia, found me this morning, amongst the crowd of learners and university students, and knew exactly who I was by touching my hands. Their sensory memory is amazing.
We have been helping a boy with albinism learn letter sound correspondence and how to read. This process has been frustrating and challenging, but also inspiring. Brianne and Sara have been preserving and working so hard! We are using more tactile learning strategies (sandpaper letters, chalk board writing, creating words with clay) with him because we are unsure of the degree of hearing and vision loss. Positive reinforcement is so essential to these learners and small successes and breakthroughs need to be celebrated. We are headed to Swakopmund this weekend for a trip to the coast! We will be climbing the second-highest dune in the world (Dune 7 … about 1,200 feet), dune sledding, quad biking, casual camel riding, possibly riding in a hot air balloon over Namibia, and enjoying the chilly Atlantic Ocean! Monday has just been named a national holiday. The Day of the African Child is celebrated on Monday so we are off from school. We will eagerly return to school and our new friends on Tuesday! Until then, “Ek is lief vir jou” -”I love you” in Afrikaans, pronounced Ek-es-leaf-frio.
Taylor Buresch, a senior special education major with minors in cognitive disabilities and Spanish, is blogging about her study abroad experience in Namibia, Africa.