Jump Like a Kangaroo

On my first day at school, I made the mistake of teaching a song about Kangaroos and now whenever some kids (and even teachers!) see me they burst out with, “Jump like a Kangaroo!” I am now the Kangaroo Girl. Excellent.

The head of the school (an Indian Tanzanian) described how he is tired of how his teachers teach; they write the lesson on the chalkboard and students copy it into their workbooks. Or they recite things, over, and over, and over again. I’ve been told these methods are prevalent throughout Bukoba and that they go back to the British colonization period! He wants the children to discover more through playing (seems like common sense to us), and has bought them several materials that just sit in a locked cupboard. Unfortunately, the keeper of the keys is this grouchy woman that always has a sour expression on her face! Frightening! At first I was always afraid to confront her to ask her to open up the cupboard. Now I have learned a few Swahili words and she occasionally will crack a smile for me (even though she still puts off this vibe that I am greatly inconveniencing her). But man can she bark at those kids!

I was instructed to just step in at any time and lead something! Ok… I had several reservations about this at first because I wasn’t sure how the teachers would receive me (another outsider who’s come to show us up sort of thing) and I didn’t want to step on their toes. My goal has transformed into introducing the teachers to the materials in the cupboard and demonstrating that they are perfectly capable of doing any activity I’ve led (like playing with play dough and watercolors).

I thought fun activities were why people go into teaching young kids! I think these teachers just lack motivation and don’t feel the need to try something new. Their excuse can’t be lack of resources, because they have plenty of new things just waiting to be used. Clearly I am no expert, but I can understand how easy it is to get in a rut. I just don’t understand how the teachers aren’t bored out of their minds. I’ve been told teaching is not a sought after profession in Tanzania and that Bukoba used to have several teachers from Uganda, where teaching is more respected. Honestly, with a lack of fun learning opportunities, I can’t blame kids for not dreaming of being teachers when they grow up.

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