Zimbabwe schools: differences

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As I was teaching out in Zimbabwe, I noticed some remarkable differences in the schools compared to English Schools.

-Day layout: Assembly from 7.15-7.30 then lessons through day until 1.00 then children are expected to studying until 2. They then have different clubs they are expected to attend. They are different depending on the term.

– Most lessons are half an hour slots

– No textbooks

– Blackboards and chalk

– ‘O’ levels then A-Levels

– Children stay in the same classrooms

– Pupils seem to have quite a few study periods

– ‘O’ Levels and A levels are limited

– No coursework

– Layout of a classroom: tables with two people on in rows facing the front with one or two blackboards using chalk. No displays around the class room.

– No massive plans

– No differentiation

-Teachers teach about 3 different subjects

– Children are focused and better behaved

– If the children are late or badly behaved, their punishment is usually being hit with a stick.

– They do have an ICT room but it got rarely used whereas in England ICT (laptop, computers, iPads, interactive whiteboards) are used all the time.

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Zimbabwe: special needs school and farewell

(Tuesday) It’s our last day in Zimbabwe and this makes me extremely sad. I am tempted to delay my flight and stay here a couple more weeks.

This morning, we went to a special needs school, where one of the women’s child from Presbyterian church go. When we arrived, the Head Teacher and Deputy Head welcomed us and did a basic talk about the school.

There are 62 children in the school, aged 5-26. After this, some of them stay on to become teaching assistants. The children have a range of needs from physical to intellectual with sight, hearing mobility problem to autism and Down’s syndrome. It cost $250 per term to attend, which covers food, bus, cook and driver. Parent are involved with the school and help run it.

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It was inspiring to hear that they will never refuse anyone to come but there are some parents out in Zimbabwe that hide their children if they have special needs. The schools mission is to make individuals as normal as possible. Therefore, in reception they learn skills like washing and dressing themselves. I think this is great so that they can become independent and not rely on their parents as they grow up.

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After, we went around each class, blowing bubbles, playing with balloons and other toys. The children loved this and it brought a smile to my face. We hung around a little while they had their playtime and took some pictures if them.

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When we got back from the Special Needs School, the secondary school children were piling chairs into the hall, getting ready for a whole school assembly for us. They set up chairs around the edge at the front for the team, while the pupils were in rows facing the front. There was a table on the stage for the Head teacher and Deputy Head but they also wanted me to sit there, which was embarrassing.

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I had prepared an assembly for the students about our identity in God. It started with a drama, which emphasised that we all have worldly identities. After I talked about God being our identity and that if you believe in him, we are a new creation. I spoke these words for the children to resonate with:

Before Christ… I was a different person… This person was my old nature… My old self… But that person died… And my life is now hidden… With Christ… I am in Christ… And he is in…me… I am a new creation… That doesn’t mean that I will never stumble… Or fall back into old patterns… But I will call them what they are… Old patterns… Old habits of the old person… I will confess them… I will thank God for his forgiveness… I will make amends… Then…I…will…move on… Not because I am taking sin lightly… But because I am taking seriously who God says I am… Holy…pure…un stained…without blemish… Not because of anything I’ve done… But because of what a God has done…for me… He has wiped my sin clean… I am blameless before God… Therefore shame… Has no place in my life… Because I am a new creation… A new creation… And all of the other parts if my story… The parts I want to pretend never happened… Have been redeemed… And they have become… The moments in my life… When God’s Grace is most on displayed… Thank you God… My mistakes do not define me… My past does not define me… Because God has defined my identity… I am his beloved child… In whom he is well pleased… This is my identity.

After we gave them some scriptures to rake hold of before singing to them as a team. Usually, I would not sing to a group of teenagers at home but as they do a lot of singing and dancing in their culture, they would appreciate it.

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When we had finished our part, I sat down as the pupils sang, danced and recited poetry. It gave us a true insight to their culture and how much they love to escape the world of poverty and sing or dance. Some of them had incredible voices and even the boys sang.

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For the rest of the afternoon, I hung out with the pupils while they made loom bands with the supplies I had given them, took loads of photos, then I hung out with Norest (a Zimbabwean guy I met out there) and prepared food for the evening.

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We had planned a farewell meal, where we invited all the staff and their families, while we made and served a three course English meal for them: soup, shepherds pies and apple crumble or trifle.

The evening was a sad but joyous time. There were speeches from the majority of people there and singing and dancing (that’s what Zimbabweans like to do). We ate, spend time with them, gave presents and served them.

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I can’t believe we were leaving the next day. What an amazing time in this country. The people have been incredible – so welcoming, caring, loving! I really want to stay!

Last days of term

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The last days of term now seem like a distant blur.

Thinking about these days now, I feel a great sense of achievement but also sadness. This year:
– I had a year 5 class for the school whole year
– I was the year group leader (not out if choice but because the school has on class per year)
– I did all the planning for every subject
– I organised several school trips
– The children in my class made great progress
– Behaviour improved
– I (somehow) dealt with awkward parents
– I completed my NQT year
– I convinced the head to get iPads for every teacher
– I build great relationship with the children in my class.

During the last few days:
– The children finished their African moving toys and topic books
– We had Aldrington’s got talent
– The final school production of ‘Move it’
– I managed to destroy all displays so it looked bare
– I sorted out my cupboard
– Move around furniture
– Update any levels on the system

On the last day, the children got ready all their books they needed to take home. During the leavers assembly, I was filled with emotions while we waved farewell to the Year 6s, two children in my class plus myself. Standing in front of the whole school, isn’t my favourite thing to do but managed to answer a few questions about my year. I also received some beautiful flowers and yen for my trip.

In the afternoon, the year 6s ran around getting their shirts signed. I opened the lovely presents from my class and we ended the day with a party, full of unhealthy snacks and smoothies and party games.

As I was taking the class to the playground to meet parents, it felt surreal. I couldn’t believe this was the last time, I was going to take them. I will properly won’t interact with these children again in the same way, teaching and building relationships with them. It has been an interesting year, full of characters and fantastic children.

Counting down the final days

I don’t know if every teaching staff is counting down the days now till the summer holiday, but certainly I am, along with some of my colleagues.

It’s that time of year, where we are starting to get ratty, feeling exhausted and in need of a long vacation. However, it is also when it’s the most relaxed, compact and lots of different activities going on. In my class, we are practicing and performing a play, trying to finish our DT project as well as the topic books, ripping down displays ready for the new academic year, clearing the cupboard and keep everything cool.

I know that I need to appreciate these last few day as I’m not going to experience this for a few years, with all my adventures.

5 days left! One week left!

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Rock climbing trip

I wanted to go out of school with a bang and something I could do with the kids that I know that they would absolutely adored.

After some consideration, I decided to either do an active activity or go to a safari park as part of our topic. I was aware that parents were currently paying for a residential trip that they children were going on in September so I knew that the trip couldn’t be too pricey.

I rang around some local activity centres to find out the variety of options. When I talked to high sports, I was amazed that they were offering a free session for school children to promote their rock climbing wall before the summer holiday began. I immediately booked a space.

Thinking through the travel options, the cheapest and easiest one was to walk: there was no direct bus or train and was it worth getting a coach. I knew it was take approximately half an hour going up hill then dramatic down. I thought it would be nice to have lunch in the park on the way, which was what we did.

After little moans and groans about the walk, my year 5s arrived excitedly at the centre. As we entered with the children looking up in amazement, there were huge walls, full of ropes hanging and stepping stones screwed to the wall.

My class were split into two groups: one getting harnesses on and rock climbing to the top of the wall then abseiling down; another group playing a variety of games on the bouldering wall (lower wall where you climbing around without wearing any safety equipment.

I even managed to get a go on the climbing wall as the children and parent helper we’re encouraging me (not that I needed it: I love doing active sports).

One child asked “Will we be doing any writing about this trip?”.
“No,”
“This is the best trip ever!”

The children absolutely loved the climbing wall and had many of them thank me personally (for these reasons, I love teaching).

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Rock climbing wall

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Bouldering wall

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Me rock climbing

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