Everything started in Norway in 2014. We arrived as new Development Instructors in One World Institute, Norway. We had no idea what it means but we knew what we wanted to live and experience in the near future.
What do you imagine when you think of Africa? Is it starving, distressed and yes, even gun-toting minors? Can you imagine happy laughing children, hard working people, youngsters flooding the new built schools hungry for education? Can you imagine just regular young people like us?
This is what I found in Africa.
In November 2015 we finally arrived in Zambia. We, I mean myself, Carmen, Jan and Monica. Our new home for the next 6 months. Monica decided fast that this is not for her so she packed and went back home. Myself and Jan decided to do the best out of our time here.
One of our first tasks at DNS Mkushi was to get used to sharing our home with multiple other creatures – from all kinds of insects to bats and rats. At this point we are familiar with the Zambian bush fauna that seeks refuge in our house, and we are more willing to accept them as part of our day to day life.
As to what concerns our other activities around the school, a short story follows.
We have arrived at DAPP College of Education short time before the final exams started. And so one of our tasks was to help students prepare for their exams in two subjects: one of us got involved in the Computer classes (Jan) and the other in the Science classes (Carmen). We’ve prepared materials at the students’ requests, and sometimes we held lessons on the subjects the students wanted. For example, lessons on how to use different computer programs such as Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word, or lessons on biology and chemistry.
However, besides being so very passionate about science and computers, we discovered that our students also have other hobbies that we can assist with. Quite a few of them are interested in music and in music videos. Some even have professionally recorded songs. And since Jan knows and likes making videos, we got involved in that direction also. Everything worked just fine for a while – filming and editing, and all that creative stuff going on – until Jan’s computer suffered a tragic accident (it cannot be used anymore, and the video editing cannot continue).
In the beginning, we also participated to many presentations held by the students during science classes and during pedagogy classes. Some of the observations we made during these presentations: some students do not have a clear understanding of the subjects they talk about; some students do not have good communication skills (can be improved through public speaking classes); some students do not know how to synthesise complex information – to extract the essential from a broad topic. We soon realised that at least one reason for this is the way they do their research, and the materials they use: they mostly use unverified internet sources. Also, most times they use materials that are discussing the topic on a much too advanced level, and this confuses them – it makes them draw the wrong conclusions for their topic. Not to mention that the main resource is internet in a place where internet is barely working, and so it follows that it is very difficult to make an extensive on-line research looking for the best materials. Internet research can definitely provide the best materials, but it needs to be done properly and with patience. So we thought that books are the next best alternative.
This leads us to our next activity here: the library. We soon discovered that the library of the school is able to provide materials on most of the subjects that the students are studying. Sadly, most of the books were deserted and full of dust – unused for so long although we could see that they contained the information students needed for their presentations or for their exams. Of course, there were some books being borrowed and used, but only too few. And in addition, the library had no borrow-return system. So we took down all the books, we arranged them into categories, and we took one computer to the library where we installed a special software. This software is specific for libraries, allowing us to have all the books registered in the system, and most importantly, allowing us to keep a clear track on who borrowed what books and for how many days. So Jan-the-Librarian got to work, and soon, the over 1300 books in the library were registered in the computer. In the meantime we also tried to convince the students to come and ask us when they need information on a specific topic because most of the times, there is a book containing that information. And since we’ve already gone through the books, we are also able to direct them to a specific book they may need. It proved to be a successful operation (some students started coming to ask for books, but we think that there should be even more students using the library), and the library is now almost in good order. The library should be a study place and should be the starting point of all research, and also for entertainment reading. We will try to reinforce this idea when the new school year starts.
Consequently, so far we’ve been mostly involved in academic activities, teaching, creating materials for teaching and helping the lecturers. We plan to continue with these activities, but we are also trying to get more involved in the community. We have plans in this direction, and also we have further plans with the library and with the volleyball team.
If you like what we do and want know more information about our school and programs check out our main website.
Carmen & Jan – September Team 2014