I’ve been teaching and working at the local schools in rural Lesotho for six weeks now, walking up to seven miles a day while rotating between the schools. Teaching has been going very well, but at first it was overwhelming. The first class I taught had over 120 students in it, the principal wanted grades 4 through 7 to attend the first class.
I had not prepared for that many students and had to improvise my lesson. I talked to the principal after class and we agreed that I would just teach life skills to 6th and 7th grades, still close to 50 students, but much more manageable. The kids are very receptive and ask a lot of questions.
The younger students have trouble with English, but luckily at the two primary schools at least one teacher attends my class and is able to translate (while at the same time learning how to teach life skills themselves). At the secondary school the teachers are much less involved, but the students are more advanced and have been really great.
Life skills cover topics such as HIV/AIDS, self-empowerment, gender, reproductive health, etc. I often sound like a cliché after school special, overly simplifying everything so that the students can understand. One of my classes was on self-esteem, for the next week kids in my village would come up to me and say “I love myself!” I’m not sure if they understood, but it was nice to hear.
I think the most progress I’ve made is with the anonymous question box. In it students admit to not understanding a concept from class or ask questions about AIDS. Some of the questions are really tough and heartbreaking. I got one this week where a girl said when she told her boyfriend/husband that she was HIV positive he beat her and asked what she should do. I feel like I am helping these kids, but there is a big difference between teaching them to know what they should do and actually having them do it.
I’ve had mixed results with my teachers’ workshops. Probably the most frustrating week I’ve had so far was after leading two teacher workshops where only half the teachers showed up (even though they were all on school grounds) and only one out of three or five paid any attention. These teachers are in the best position to help the students and it was upsetting to feel like they just didn’t care. But I had one amazing teachers’ workshop where all but one of the teachers showed up, not only did they pay attention they actually took notes and asked questions. This was at the school where the teachers seem to care the most, but ironically also beat the most. While I was explaining the life skills no-beating, positive reinforcement strategies the teachers asked if it would work in all of their classes as well. They are going to try not beating and using the life skills classroom management techniques. It might take a while to actually work, but it was really exciting to be a part of such a positive change.