Iltereto Primary School
Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
45Trip End Feb 13, 2011
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It has been very hard to get on the internet in the last few weeks! We are however back in Nairobi now so I thought it was about time we wrote about our placement at Iltereto Primary School.
Our school was a very scenic 20 minute walk from our home through the bush. Iltereto Primary is a small school of around 120 students whose ages range from 2 to 20 years old. They operate with the American system where a student must pass the end of year exams before being moved up a grade meaning there was often a big age range in each class! Both Mark and I were very nervous having never taught before but as it turns out, I think lack of western teaching experience may have been to our advantage as the system was nothing like anything we'd seen before!
Classes began at 8 and school finished at 3 however we quickly learned that a timetable is more of a suggestion than anything to actually be followed. After assembly with singing and prayers around the flagpole at 8am the children would begin sweeping out the classrooms and tidying the staffroom. Others would gather the firewood (each child is required to bring one stick of firewood with them in the morning) in the school kitchen and prepare tea for the teachers. (1 class would also miss the lesson before lunch to cook lunch for the teachers)
Most teachers would normally turn up at around 9- 9:30 to start lessons after the children had finnished their chores. Something which I never really got used to was that any children- no matter how small- would be caned if late! Hypocracy along with apathy I have now learnt, is something of an art form amongst people of any power here.
Subjects taught were Maths, Science, English, Swahili, Social Studies and Christian Religious Education. Mark and I were simply handed a text book for a subject and pointed in the direction of classrooms! The teaching itself was a lot of fun with the children very eager to learn. They were absolutely fascinated by us, and probably one of the hardest things to get used to was the lack of personal boundaries! At most times we would have 20 pairs of hands all over us pressing our skin or stroking our hair. During sports day I could barely see any of the games because of small hands pulling my eyebrows or stroking my face!
Our school were very accomplished at sports and won most games in the first round held at our school. Even in the second round held at a school in town, they won most games. This was even more impressive considering we walked 8km in the heat up a very big hill to get there! It says a lot about staff/ student relations that as Mark and I were walking with all the little ones the teachers bombed past us on a motorbike waving. Similarly, after the walk, plus a full day of games the students had no lunch provided despite Mark and I being invited to come and eat with the teachers.
There were some heartbreaking moments- one Monday before end of term exams there were no lessons as about 75% of the students had been sent home to collect money for exams. Many of these children didn't come back as they couldn't get the KS100 (about 1 pound) fee. Also when I was invigilating one of the exams I told some students off for turning around and talking only to see that they were all (about 5 of them) taking it in turns to share 1 pen between them. It became clear the longer we were there however that donations (pens, books etc) were not really what the school needed. The students absolutely thrived when they were just encouraged a little. (watching my class 7 boys dramatize the meaning "Joy" was probably one of the funniest moments of my life!)
Unfortunately I don't have time now to paint a full picture of our time at Iltereto (A rant about the exam fiasco would take me all afternoon!) but I'll round off by saying that the whole experience was probably one of the most frustrating yet at the same time most rewarding experiences I've had so far.