In the Field
I have just been to visit some schools in Oro. We drove at break neck speed for some reason, avoiding pot-holes and narrowly missing taxis. I went to deliver the boxes of books I have bought with my VSO grant and also to see how they were getting on with teaching Group Reading. They are doing very well and were thrilled with the books. One teacher was really excited when I touched her arm and was boasting about this to the others! It was great to see the children playing the matching games and the teachers sitting reading with them.
On the way home we were stopped by a police man in full gear and armed who demanded paperwork but was very impressed by my Yoruba greeting and we were released quickly!
Today I visited another school which had had a quite a lot of support before the holiday. They had really got going with the group reading. However when we arrived, unannounced, group reading was no longer in place. The desks had even been put back in rows. What they were doing instead was basically not much. One class was without a teacher. In another some of the children were writing in exercise books but at least half were doing nothing. Another teacher said she was trying and had written some sentences on the chalkboard. The teacher who had become an expert at group reading had gone on the sandwich courses that the universities, in their wisdom, run at this time of the year. No substitute teachers are ever provided-or the idea of ‘substitute’ ever even considered-so her class was joined with another and doing very little. However, undaunted, we took the box of story books into classes 4 and 6 and, as they say here, ‘put the teachers’ through the lesson. They were very responsive and soon desks were being shifted and card was found to make the flash cards and eventually the SSIT helped them to deliver group reading lessons. They began with silent reading of the story books I had bought. A few of the children could read them but a lot couldn’t even though they were not difficult. They were keen to read to me as they have got to know me and my accent as I have been in the school quite a lot. Even the ones who couldn’t read wanted to try. I asked one of the good readers who had taught her to read and she replied, ’I taught myself’. I think most of the good readers had done this or someone at home had helped them. They then help the other children to read or try to ‘carry them along’ -another Nigerian phrase. I chatted with a great group of children at break time. They were from class 4 and had had the benefit of the lesson plans for a year. Some had clearly benefitted but a lot still struggled with reading. A year of draft version lesson plans is too early to see great changes but they remembered some phonic songs and could read cvc words although they could not say the sounds of individual letters.
As I looked around the dark dismal room I vowed never to complain about the state of my classroom in the UK again. The floor, like most here, is cement but cracked with holes everywhere which I often trip up in. The windows have no glass just metal shutters which don’t fit properly and bang constantly. There were a few very tatty dusty posters on the walls-too high up to see clearly. The desks are very old and falling apart. Children are squashed three to a bench. Some children are several years older than their class mates and look very uncomfortable in the low desks. The desks are not all the same size and often have the backs missing or bits of wood jutting out at odd angles. It is also very hot in the room and there is a busy road right outside the room. The children write with biros in flimsy exercise books and the text books are old and dirty. Yet they try and most of the teachers will try too! A lot of them shout at the children and threaten them with beating but when presented with a different approach will give it a go. By the end of the morning the children had played matching games and had a go at group reading.