First Impressions ' Part I
Trip Start Sep 06, 2008
19Trip End Nov 25, 2008
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I visited all of the schools on Monday, and began teaching on Tuesday. The students here only attend school either in the morning or in the afternoon. The classes that I work with are all in the mornings, so I alternate between 3 schools every second day. Each school is in a different batey (sugar cane settlement), and they all are painted the same because they are government-owned buildings. All of the students are required to wear a uniform that is the same throughout the country, but not all families can afford them, which is a problem
When you enter the room, all of the students stand up until you tell them to sit, and they say hello to you. When they are told to sit, they say "thank you." This was a very big shock to me, as I think it's a good day when no one has tried to fall asleep in front of me! There are many grades and ages in one class, which makes it difficult at times, because they are working at different levels. Some students are in their late teens, but can be in the same grade as students who are 10 or 11. One thing that they all have in common is a general difficulty with writing...they are very slow, and look at the board many times to write one word, and even then they often make spelling mistakes. Some of them also have a hard time listening in French, and can be easily distracted. That being said, however, the thing that is most apparent in ALL of the students is that they are extremely polite, respectful, and friendly - albeit shy
What marvels me the most, I think, is how happy and pleasant and polite these students are, despite their EXTREMELY meagre and difficult lives at home. Most of the children live in extreme poverty in the bateyes (see pictures), and many have parents who either abandoned them or died, and are left to be raised by any other family member that may exist in the batey. None of the homes have running water in the bateyes - there is one water source, where they all must go to bathe and fill buckets to bring water back to their "houses" for cooking, cleaning, etc. There is some electricity in the schools, but most of the homes have no electricity at all. Some homes are so small that the entire family sleeps in one bed, which is directly next to the kitchen. There are no bathrooms in the homes, but there are 5 or 6 outhouses.
When I see how these people live everyday (many of them never leave the batey except to work in the cane fields, for those who do work), I can't believe how happy and positive these students are, and I wish more than anything that all students at home could see how these children live, so that they would realize how lucky they all are in comparison, and be thankful for all that they have
Overall, I have had a great first experience in these schools, and I am really looking forward to getting to know the teachers and students, and hopefully creating a project through the Rotary Club so that they can receive money and supplies to help them in the future.