Me at Lucy's Wedding. The sun does shine in England!

Me at Lucy's Wedding. The sun does shine in England!
Me still in England!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Thank you Funmi

We had a great time this afternoon with Funmi and his wife Sharon. They very kindly invited us round to their house where we enjoyed a lovely meal. Lea did not manage the snails but enjoyed the fish very much and I loved the blended fruit drink. Sharon showed us the jewellery she makes which is really beautiful. The house is lovely too and it was good to sit and chat.

And here is Lea with Sharon and Funmi.
Funmi in action on the cricket day!

Six Months

It is hard to believe we have been here for almost six months. We are going home for a break in two weeks and I was thinking how to explain what it is like living here. I think it is an impossible task!
As I travelled to schools last week,  I peered out of the window as usual. The streets are full of people, brightly clothed going about their business. Women are lighting little fires in the ditches,on waste ground and setting up their pots to make akara or grill plantains. Everywhere they are carrying things on their heads to sell-basins full of bottles of tea, little white cassava loaves, bundles of old clothes, towels and by the road they are selling kola nuts, doughnuts, biscuits. Children are walking to school, dressed in vibrant purple and green uniforms, some have little red hats and I have also seen boys and girls in bright pink. Older children (sometimes only 5 or 6 themselves) are taking little two year olds clutching breakfast boxes and little cloth bags full of books. Traffic is everywhere, horns are blaring and it is hard to walk down the sides of the road without falling in the ditches. Fumes from cars, fires, generators also abound. People are greeting each other, children are stopping to buy little packs of biscuits. Goats and chicken roam everywhere. As we travel towards the Emir’s palace it gets more crowded and the traffic is horrendous. Alartise squeeze us into gaps and goes on the other side of the road as the traffic constantly jams. No-one wants to give way and there is a lot of shouting and near misses. Men line the road waiting for work on the road. We drive on the wrong side of the road again to avoid the massive holes and bumps in the roads. The ‘shops’ we pass have amazing names-Sons and Lovers is a book shop, God’s Grace sells computer parts. Old fridges, generators, clothes swinging from hangers, food stalls, it just goes on and on. Everywhere is a cacophony of colour and noise. It is never boring-I always see something different. Someone is always setting up some new stall or shop.
Then we are out in the countryside and we pass yam and cassava growing. Men and women are working in the fields. Some have come on motor bikes and are lying on them asleep. Some are knocking the mangoes off the trees. Fulani are herding the cattle. The road is really bad and often just a dirt track through a field. We pass through the villages of houses made of mud with tin roofs with wooden tables (often broken) where they are setting up the shops. All is covered with sand and dust.
People stare at me wherever I go but wave madly when I wave and smile at them.
It is just so different! At times it is scary-when we are stopped or when we seem to be crammed in by traffic-but it is so amazing. People are getting on with their lives in very harsh conditions-it is overcrowded, noisy, often dirty but alive. So so different from our manicured lawns, organised supermarkets and roads with traffic lights-but much more interesting!
Having said that it will be so less stressful just to go and pick something from a shelf and buy it!
I have also been back to the orphanage and seen Praise again. They have moved to larger premises in a better environment but are now a long way out of Ilorin. This means they can’t get to the owner’s school so she pays for them to go to a nearby private school. She also has trouble getting staff to go out and relies on donations to pay their salary. She had two new arrivals-both aged two months and very under-nourished. The children were very pleased to see us –I went with Emma and Obi-and were well and happy. They need so much. I am hoping to fill two suitcases of baby clothes and cuddly toys to take back with me. They also need rice, past and Pampers nappies so any money I raise I will use to buy those things here. There is also a girl who we think is about 15 there with her little boy who is 3. She has had a really bad time. She doesn’t speak much and can’t read or write. The owner was so pleased to see us as were the children so hopefully I can visit them again with some clothes and toys.
Red chicks!

Friday, 25 March 2011

More schools in Asa.

We went down some very bumpy 'roads' to get to the schools. Alatise, the driver, did well and eventually we found them. One school was called 'Budo-Adio' and so we went to 'Budo-Adio' village only to find the school was in the next village. Half the children didn't go to school as it was too far and they could not cross the river.

At another place the bridge had broken so we had to make a detour. Strategically placed on the path were men 'collecting' money for a new bridge! We were also stopped for half an hour by 'tax enforcers' who claimed we had the wrong number plates for a government vehicle and needed to pay 25,000N! I put him on the phone to ESSPIN office and he eventually said he would not take us to the police station out of respect for me as I was a foreigner!

It was well worth all the effort to get to this school. This teacher had over forty in the class-primary one and kindergarten yet she had really got the hang of the phonics training! She took them outside to do some phonic singing. Her classroom was very dark and hot but she had flash cards and taught them how to blend the sounds together!

This teacher was in a room where four lessons were happening and he was teaching fractions with the stones.

In the same school-because of lack of spave this class was outside. They were learning the days of the week. There are big problems during the rainy season as there is so little space inside and a lot of the benches are broken. At another school the project officer showed me the toilets that were being built. At the moment everyone goes in the bush but a lot of the children have been bitten by snakes. I have my bladder well trained for these visits fortunately and have only had to go in the bush once-where I made a lot of noise first!

Adventures in Asa

This week I have been visiting schools in Asa. They are mostly rural and very hard to find. In this school there were four classes in one room. There was a lot of chanting and singing so it was hard to concentrate. A few Primary one children were sitting in a little room-more like a big cupboard-off the classroom, waiting patiently for a teacher.

Here the teacher is doing the 'Yam is in the Bag'- a song from the training. There were other classes working out here.

The head teacher was keen to show me round the village. The school was in the heart of the village. Here they are drying cassava on the roof. I met the oldest woman in the village-she is 85! The SBMC helped the school to buy a drum for the school when they dance. Other children heard about this and they have doubled the number of children in the school!

The Kinderkarten children were learning numbers under the tree. The teacher left this little girl in charge and she is pointing to the numbers. Two of the boys started to have a wrestle but the head teacher soon sorted it out. He had a great way with the children. Parents also came into the school and there was a nice family atmosphere.

 This is the centre of the village. The houses are all made with mud.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

No time to blog!

It has been a hectic few weeks with definitely no time to blog! The three day numeracy training took up a lot of my time. I think it went well-it was certainly very lively! There was a lot of debate on whether the jumps on the number line for division should go forwards or backwards and the direction of the arrows! We also had great fun singing 'Five Little Ducks'! It was also great to see the SSIT taking part in some of the numeracy games-much more enthusiasm shown then when we did it at training sessions in the UK!
Making number beads.

We have another VSO now called Julie who is from Oregon. She is based in Oro but stayed with us for a few days and has done some work with us. It is good to have another VSO to share experiences with. Another couple are due to arrive in April and there may even be more which would be great.
We have also been doing work on the Primary 4-6 curriculum with the SSIT. Last week Sue, Lea. Julie and I worked with the SSIT taking THE Nigerian Curriculum apart and trying to simplify it-no easy task! There is some complicated stuff in it. Eg: at Primary six pupils should be able to use ‘modals’ correctly, identify indefinite adverbs, read fluently simple passages based on organized meetings , move a vote of thanks and introduce the chairman, using the correct and appropriate structural and lexical items! I quote from Primary 4; 'conditional sentences expressing wishes and desires that are unlikely to be fulfilled using 'if' 'supposing' 'if not' assuming' with unreal situations'!. For Speaking and Listening pupils are asked to practise saying, 'plastic bucket, cotton dress, diamond ring, enamel bowl, rubber stamps'. Why????The grammar section includes the use of the gerund! Maths has LCM (lowest common multiple). Really hard stuff on square roots, profit and loss....... The text books just make things worse giving at least three different methods for doing each calculation! We also visited some schools to see how 4-6 children and teachers were coping. There were a lot of problems in rural areas. I visited a school under a tree where a school of 17 were being taught by one teacher. Three little primary 1 children were sitting so quietly doing nothing while he taught the others! He was, however, using teaching aids and had tried to group the children so he could give years 4-5 a task (draw a bottle) while the others did numeracy with him. In some schools the problem was the teachers’ subject knowledge and a lot of children were copying examples from textbooks for maths. However it was a different story in the urban schools. There were very big classes but usually with two teachers and generally the children could read some very difficult passages. I asked a child to read to me and when she had read a few lines I asked her a very simple question which she could not answer. The teacher said I had to let her read the whole passage and then there were questions in the book that she could answer! We all saw quite a lot of mistakes in maths teaching and a lot of reading involved reading and repeating parts of sentences. Everyone was very pleased to see us and the teachers are keen to have training and have already tried out some ideas from the 1-3 teachers which was encouraging.
A week ago we went to a naming ceremony. Baba is one of the drivers and has given us a lot of lifts. He is a very friendly man whose real name is Tajudin but is called Baba because he is older than the other drivers. Lea sometimes gets called Baba too! Baba’s second wife had a baby a week before so we were invited to his house. The baby is called Jimol because he was born on a Friday and was gorgeous. Baba’s wife is beautiful and looked amazing for someone who had recently given birth. We were made very welcome and I was allowed to hold the baby. I avoided the goat soup but enjoyed talking to everyone.

On the way home we got caught up in a political rally which was a bit scary. Gbenga, who gave us a lift, was brilliant and managed to get us out of the convoy and made sure Emma, who was following got out too. At one point Gbenga said he would get out to see what was holding us up and I had to sit in the driving seat ready to drive if the queue of traffic moved. I was very relieved when he returned! There were hundreds of people shouting, leaning out of cars and vans, waving brooms and chanting for their party. We even saw some of them being paid by party officials. We were okay but there would have been trouble if they had met up with a rival party.
It has gone even hotter and even Nigerians are complaining about the heat. Neppa has been better though-people say it is political-and on most nights.
We celebrated pancake Tuesday and Lea tossed them perfectly! I also made yeast bread which was amazing to watch as it rose so fast in the heat!
In three weeks we are going home for a break which we are looking forward to. Can’t wait to have a bath and eat fast food!
Baba holding Jimol!

Monday, 7 March 2011

More Birthday photos

My Birthday

Wow! It certainly was one I will remember. First there was a lovely card from Lea (he even remembered Valentine’s day and had bought a card with him from England). But my present! It was the sunflower I have been admiring for ages! It is so big, tacky and cheerful! Even better in the evening I found Sue had also bought me one so our parlour is really bright and cheerful now!  My birthday clothes arrived via my wonderful tailor the night before so I wore them to the office. I had a lift in and stopped at Sue’s where Esther helped me with the head gear part. I received lots of greetings in the office and Funmi got me a great cake with ‘C. Knowles’ on! Kayode from VSO was visiting us and our new VSO, Julie. He and the Nysc lady who was here to see Lea took us all out to lunch and got me a card and a present of two lovely mugs. We had a very long meeting in the afternoon but sharing the cake helped! Best was in the evening when we went round to Sue’s for a party. Everyone had made a dish and Lea made a cake with ‘Every child counts’ and a little desk on! The food was great and Sue had managed to get cauliflower which I have never had here. Ife made great moin moin and a delicious ginger cake. They all sang Happy Birthday  with the estra refrain:How old are you now! The next day I went with Emma and Ife and Julie to the market to buy cloth and Emma told me to choose a handbag which she bought for me! I now have a genuine fake Jimmy Choo bag!! They are really great people to work with! When Oozo, my neighbour found out about my birthday she made coconut rice a for us!
Really busy now doing numeracy workshops and making no cost low cost teaching aids. We had a visit from DFID –a lady named Barbara. She was impressed and the visit was a success. We all went round to Emma’s for a meal with her which was nice. My tables and chairs are now being made and some have been made bigger for juniors which is immensely rewarding! I also visited the teacher training and it was good to see them learning stuff like full circle! The problem was there were so many in a group and some had babies with them too so how they managed to concentrate I don’t know but the SSIT are trying to remedy this situation.
We ahve just had pancakes for breakfast-yum yum! Gbenga bought us a load of mangoes so I am going to make a crumble with them! Corn on the cob is in season now which is good.
Photos of birthday in next blog when I have the internet!
Thanks to all those who are still reading this!!!

My Birthday photos!

Our Nigerian lunch!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Patigi 3

 The elders in the village were pleased to see us.
 We travelled to the next village. This school also gets flooded in the wet season.
 We went down to the river. We saw where the river Niger meets the river Kaduna. The men were making the nets. Every four years they have a regatta to see who is the best fisherman!
 We met a woman who smokes the fish.
 We saw the cattle being transported!
It was agreat day! We saw the casava drying on the way home and bought some very spicy roasted yam!

Patigi 2

We were made very welcome in the village. The people speak Nupi which is a different language from Yoruba. We had an interpretor! Some of the children followed us and as soon as they got to the river Niger they jumped in and were swimming like little fishes! It is extremely deep! The fish in the photo has poison in the sharp spikes! There are more fish in the rainy season as they like to hide in the reeds.
 In this photo you can see the canoe. It has crossed the river to Niger state to gather food for the cattle this side of the river. In the rainy season everyone travels by canoe. They wanted us to stay longer and go across the river but sadly we did not have enough time.

 I love the cattle. I aske how much one cost!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Patigi 1

What a fascinating journey. This was our first stop. In the wet season this river will be full. We watched the women washing and the fulani leading their cattle through the river. A man was even washing his bike in the river. It was such a timeless peaceful scene.
Eventually we arrived at the LGEA where we had a warm welcome. We were them taken by the head of school services to a village by the river Niger. We went to the school in the photos. In the rainy season the children cannot go to school as this whole area is flooded. The village is also flooded and often people drown. However they are now building a new school on higher ground and the villagers will move there wehn the rains come. The school is very basic and there is only one teacher but he said he is using the lesson plans! It is very difficult to get teachers in rural areas. We were told that there is still a belief in witchcraft and people believe that newcomers can drain the wealth of the villagers so 'witches' often put curses on new teachers which make them very ill.

The children were a bit scared of us at first-they had not seen white people before! When they knew we were there the parents came to talk to us too. While Sue talked to them I managed to speak to some of the children. They were able to tell me their names and what class they were in.

We left the school to visit their village.