They loved the rat
So it was back to work! As usual I have been very busy and crammed a lot into the last three weeks. I have done two spelling workshops and visited 10 schools, as well as editing lesson plans and producing display material for the launch of the lesson plans. I now work more with the SSIT which I enjoy. They are very kind to me and have even fixed the toilet so that it now flushes. The office is not as comfortable as the ESSPIN one as the a/c is not as efficient but they have good internet access. I feel I belong there more and Bola always makes me a great cup of coffee! We also have to go pass the Ostrich Bakery on the return journey where they sell wheat bread and chocolate soya milk! I have a desk and do enjoy being with them. They are very loud at times so when I need to concentrate I go to the ESSPIN office or do planning at home.
At the moment I am doing training for spelling and also learning myself a lot about Nigerian pronunciation. This was very relevant when I asked them to list homophones!
I was very happy when I went to visit schools in the areas around Oro. In the second school I visited the first thing the head teacher said to me was, “They loved the rat”. I pushed my chair back a bit as rats are definitely not my favourite creatures. Tunde saw the horror on my face and smiled. He said the means ‘Mighty Mouse’. ‘Mighty Mouse’ is a teaching aid I introduced in the numeracy training! It is a prism made of card with a mouse picture and a tail attached. The tail is a number line. Sure enough in all the classrooms there was ‘Mighty Mouse’ hanging from the ceiling by his tail! They had also made bead strings from cut up straws. They were all using the lesson plans too so it was a good day. ESSPIN were having their MTR (mid-term review) so another day I had to go with Funke to find some schools for them to visit. We saw seven schools in one day which was an exhausting experience but again rewarding as they do had the numeracy teaching aids. We had to find a rural school so visited some out of the way villages. In one village a man held up a dog’s head on a stick for us to buy! This is not very common but is regarded as a delicacy by some people. There were also the usual bush meet offerings and I was assured how delicious rat meat is-but not even slightly tempted! On the way back we stopped to buy another delicacy-a mix of maize and beans fried in palm oil. At last I thought something I can eat and bought six pieces to take home. If you want to have the lining removed from your whole mouth then this is the answer! It was so hot that even Lea had to give up. My neighbour, Gbenga was very pleased with the remaining pieces however. We also bought some corn on the cob which was very nice. They often roast it by the roadside which makes it a bit chewy but this had been boiled and was nice. On the subject of food mangoes are in abundance and very nice. There are different varieties however. Mary has some in her compound which are very superior-they are more fleshy and very juicy. There are also some in the grounds of the ERC where I work with the SSIT now. I only mentioned how I had not had any mangoes from there and immediately Philip, who is their leader, went out and got me some! Apparently he is very good at climbing the mango trees!
I was very impressed with the work being done in the schools in Oke-Ero. There was a real sense of the schools being places of work. I also got to see some of the problems they were having with the water from a bore hole not long installed. I took a picture of the muddy water that was coming out and showed it to the ESSPIN consultant who later went out to see and fix it.
The final published version of some of the numeracy and literacy plans were finally ready so it was decided to have a big launch. The launch also coincided with the end of this governor’s office in Kwara. The new governor took over yesterday-May 29th. So we thought it would be good to present the lesson plans to the outgoing governor and celebrate all that had been achieved. I went out to a school in Ilorin West to get samples of work from the children. Dari and Ottan (SSIT) were great and explained to the teachers what I wanted. I say it and they repeat it but without my accent! One teacher got her class to write some sentences about a picture in the text book-they actually produced different versions as they were in groups-real progress! We even managed to get an older child to draw round a kindergarten child and label the parts of the body-the little girl was absolutely terrified I think though-of the process or of my big white face I don’t know. It was good to be back in the classroom working directly with teachers. The classrooms are a far cry from the UK though. Primary 1 were very crowded. There were about 50 pupils sitting 8 or 10 on benches made for 4. I got new exercise books for them and pencils and the work they did was really neat. We had number line work, place value, phonics and stories. Sherif and Taiwo worked with another school and they chose 12 pupils to present an example of a lesson. The whole event took place in a very grand banqueting hall. The pupils spent most of the day before rehearsing songs and their lesson in the hall. They were so well behaved and never moaned once-an alien concept anyway for a Nigerian pupil!! They must have sung ‘Ten Green Bottles’ at least ten times while I was there! They also did a role play about a monkey hiding in a tree and I was asked if I had a big plant the monkey coy-uld hide behind. I think they were very impressed when I arrived with my big sunflower! When they were finally released I took them to the local ‘cafe’ for an ice-cream. This was a bit fraught as I had to wait for ESSPIN to get the money to me and ended up scrabbling in my purse to pay myself. Trying to haggle the price was a definite no no! I was later reimbursed and the children got their treat which was the main thing. I also made display of songs, stories and teaching aids from the lesson plans for a display in the hall. A decorator had been hired for the occasion and assured me there would be room for my display. I was told it was not protocol to stick work on the walls so would have to attach it to cloth.
So the big day dawned. The celebration was originally scheduled for 10am but in true Nigerian style was changed to 3pm and actually began around 5pm! We were supposed to go and set up at 11am but there was suddenly a problem and we were told the venue might have to be changed. However at about 12.30 I was allowed to go to the banqueting hall. Julie came with me and we gazed in wonder at the swathes of cloth draped around the massive hall with intricate bows and artificial flowers-but where was I going to put my display. Mercy, the decorator asked me if I loved the display. I assured her I did but wondered where the cloth was for me to pin my display to. The pins themselves had caused some problems. Poor Ayo, the office boy had gone out three times in search of them. I eventually wrote the word ‘pin’ down as he thought I meant ‘pen’ but he came back with needles! Finally someone told me they were called office pins and we were in business!! He was also very patient when I was trying to enlarge some songs from A4 to A3. He said the machine could not do this but eventually with Emma’s help we pressed the right buttons and for the first time his photocopier enlarged! To get back to the display crisis! I soon realised the concept of a vertical drape was an alien concept and while Mercy and her gang were making beautiful drapes behind the high table I grabbed some of my precious blu-tac brought back from the UK and told Julie to help me get sticking! We slapped the display on the wall and I waited for the sky to fall in but it didn’t and so far I have not been arrested for this breach of protocol! Mercy didn’t say much but stuck bits of fabric around the display and in it. Then to my amazement she hung fairy lights across it. I arranged the other stuff on the tables that had been designed for schools and later the SSIT brought their teaching aids too. We set up a model classroom on a side stage as agreed the day before but it was decided to put it at the front so it all had to be moved again. The drivers had a tough day of it as they had to bring all the booklets (yes all so everyone could see the magnitude of the task), the 16 tables, 24 chairs, fold up tables, samples of work down the two flights of stairs from the ESSPIN office to the hall and then shift them around when they arrived and of course, pack them up and take them back! So then we waited and waited. The hon commissioner arrived and other important people. They got to sit on the high table. Sue, Emma and Steve (from ESSPIN Abuja) were also invited to join them. We then heard that the governor would not be coming as there had been some trouble at a previous engagement. The deputy governor came instead and the show could begin. The children were great-they sang the national anthem with gusto and did an excellent role play. My sunflower was such a hit that it was put near the high table! Those children sat so patiently and were so well behaved. The sad thing was everyone was told to hurry up as the deputy had another function to attend so their lesson and singing was cut short-we never got to hear 10 Green Bottles. Sue AND Philip had an excellent presentation but that was also cut short. The worst thing of all though was the lesson plan books were never unveiled-they stayed covered up! Everyone thought it was great and I was complimented on the display (probably the worst I have ever done by UK standards but with very limited resources albeit lots of twirls of fabric and fairy lights!). I felt sad that no-one on the high table thanked the children even though they clearly enjoyed their performance.
We then packed up-me desperately trying to save my precious blu-tac-the nearest equivalent they have here is chewing gum! Feeling very grubby, dirty and sweaty we headed off for the Kwara hotel for food and drink. This was my third meal out of the week! Earlier we had a night out with Andrea and Harold there and I had enjoyed the vegetarian option-chips so chips it was again. We had also been out with VSO representatives, Chinwe and Yakiem on Wednesday to Royals where the vegetarian option was a small pot of coleslaw!!! Anyway it was good to celebrate with everyone ans sit outside under umbrellas and feel a cool breeze.