Sunday, June 10, 2007
from Johanna Kuyvenhoven
Hurrah! A small guest appearance on the blog I’ve been following since it began! Before I say a few things about why I’m here, I’d like to lavish praise on Asher. HE’S DONE AWESOME WORK!! I hope he’ll agree to publish my praise and wonder.
I know well the kinds of constraints he faced to get bricks, boards, gravel, cement … let alone getting rafters that meet in the middle and windows on the same plane. And to imagine that he’s kept the momentum of this building going for four unflagging months!?!! This is really a sign of God’s empowerment. Everyone I talk to is full of praise and some awe of the young man who works “pass all.” He was entrusted with much – and has returned far more than anyone reasonably hoped for. AND – best of all, he works in companionship and community with workers, church leaders, the school management committee and others.
I’m the very white woman you might have seen a few entries down – locally known as Yowannah. In Canada/US, it’s Jo Kuyvenhoven. I’m staying with Asher and several others in Kabala… It’s my annual privilege to come here to learn about the teaching of reading and language use in Sierra Leone – and to also do some teacher training. I also facilitate an annual national conference for studies in language and literacy teaching. I lived here from 1981-1985 and worked and studied here for a couple of months every year since 2001. I’m blessed with some very good friendships and connections in SL.
Last week we finished a 1 week intensive workshop for community school teachers from 11 chiefdoms in this district. Working with the 51 uncommonly eager students, I often thought about the new school that will open this September. We are working for a place where learning is soaked with understandings about our Creator and Saviour. The school is also going to be a place where teaching and learning methodologies are deliberately developed for greater effectiveness. Currently, most students in class 3-5 are still in the (very) early stages of print literacy. We will work for nearly fluent readers by class 5. We hope we can develop ways to help our graduates read fluently, ably calculate, have a breadth of knowledge and skills related to the subject areas under study when the finish class 6.
It won’t be easy to find teachers who are ready to bring new methods, strategies and materials to bear on this. Teachers in this area were raised in schools with nearly no materials and overcrowded conditions. One teacher in my workshop has 152 students in his thatched classroom/shelter. Imagine the classroom management issues! He has 7 books for his students’ use. Most participants in the workshop couldn’t write the alphabet the same way twice and struggled to find the number and place where we are reading in our workbooks. Teaching is guided by rote memorization and copy strategies. This is why I do workshops, work with the government ministry of education, teacher training colleges and many other NGO’s in an effort to develop more apt methodologies and materials. Print literacy is a new language learning here.
Sierra Leone culture is fantastically rich with stories, highly developed social and oral abilities and – by western standards- advanced abilities for remembering. We hope that this school becomes a place where the best of two cultures for education can come together to complement each other under the Son’s Shine.
Asher leads the construction of the building - the bones and body of the school. What a great and beautiful promise is becoming visible. Now, we search for the beating heart. The school’s character and much of its possibility resides in the staff of teachers and their headmaster. What divine affirmation that J.T. Koroma, the headmaster was led to this new school. Now we hope God will lead the right teachers to join us. On this Wednesday we will interview 6 candidates. Pray!