Two mid sized rooms with cracked window panes and dung smeared floors sit on a ledge overlooking the Senqu river. Six primary classes are taught within these buildings. Three teachers. The nearest camptown in this remote mountain region is about three hours walking. It doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. And yet…
“You are welcome,” Ntate shares his soft smile with me. I’ve just asked about our schedule for next Tuesday. We are talking outside his class room after one of my weekly visits. I come to work with his classes and the classes of the principal. This week I observed an English class and taught rounding decimals. Next week we rotate – I’ll watch math then teach English.
“Ok, so next week I will watch your lesson on percentage? You can use that same game we used today, it should be ok.”
“Yes, Mme. I have seen how they show fractions and decimals, and percentages, they are all related, so…” he pulls the concepts together with his hands in the air in front of us. “Yes Mme,” he repeats as he turns back to me, “You are welcome.”
“Thank you Ntate! And thank you for today! I think the children had fun too.”
“Yes, I have seen that they have somehow understood, they have somehow gotten this concept.” He pauses, and I’m waiting for what I think will be his goodbye.
Instead he looks back at the classroom door, and when he turns back he has a huge grin. He begins to tick something off on his large chalk dusted hands.
“You know, this school, we have gotten best results in math,” he glances up at me from this statement symbolized by his pinky, and then keeps going by taking another finger, “Best results in English,” and he quickly grabs a third finger, “and best overall results for this region.” He beams.
“What!?! Ntate! This school?”
“So you see, Mme. We are somehow listening. And we are somehow not just listening. We are doing.”
“Fantastic, Ntate! Hantle!”
“Yes, Mme. This school. Our school. Next Thursday we will go to pick up the trophies.” He holds up his three fingers again. “Those three trophies.”
I take his hand. “Ntate, I am not surprised. You have the most loving and dedicated teachers working here. And the students love to learn. And that is something, a love that they also learn from you.”
He grins and looks down shyly. We hold hands for a minute in the morning sun, listening to the light rustling of dry corn stalks tiptoe across the wind. The river flows far below us. The song of time passing and time standing still.
I remember my first visit to the school, when I saw only decrepit blackboards, students crowded on precarious small wooden benches or sitting on the floor, and teachers juggling two classes at a time.
I remember the warmth with which the principal welcomed me to try teaching, sharing with me her challenging topics with which I could assist, and carefully reviewing the lesson plans I brought before teaching.
I remember when we began co teaching to be sure students learned and that we learned from each other.
I remember my English lessons with children fascinated by my tape recorder replaying the voices of local Basotho telling a story, while they read the words printed on the chart paper behind me and the principal translated into Sesotho.
I remember teaching lessons and Ntate and I carefully going over what went well, what to improve, and making goals for next time.
“Ntate, thank you so much for telling me, but really I am not surprised. This school is a very special place. You must be so happy. Thank you for making me feel so welcome here, and for having me join your school.”
“Yes, you are welcome, Mme.”
We drop hands.
“See you next week, Ntate.”
He returns to his eager students, and I walk the hour back to my village.
Multiples on the Hundreds Chart
These photos are taken during a maths lesson several weeks ago. We used hundreds charts, a large one hand made on chart paper and small ones made from a donated math workbook and cardboard, to look at patterns and practice multiples. The principal is guiding the children to find multiples and use the charts.