Well here I am!! 14 years later. At the King's School, Bujumbura, Burundi. Although, I have discovered that my dream was maybe just a tad idealistic, possibly a little fairy-landish.
Somehow, wanting to learn and having a better idea of the privilege of an education, doesn't necessarily make children 'Angelic'.
I have discovered some amazing similarities between children in Bujumbura and those in Earl Shilton, Leicestershire, England.
- They love to fiddle with things - rulers, pencils, pencil cases, erasers. You name it, if it's on the table they will fiddle. Highlighter pens!! - you have no idea, the interesting things that can be done with a highlighter pen. Stacking, balancing, clicking the lid off and on. It's a cross-continental skill
- Talking. Across the span of 4000 miles, children love to talk and they find it quite tiresome that teachers are not so keen on them undertaking the activity. Even a simple instruction, along the lines of 'don't-talk-whilst-I-am-talking,' meets with confusion and an inability to conform. Somehow it is just not possible for a child to hold a thought in it's head. Be that an African one or an English one. All thoughts have to be instantly released through the individual's mouth.
- Paint - Children and paint. Same result Earl Shilton and Bujumbura. On the uniform! On the table. On the floor. On the face. On the neighbour. And just a bit where it is meant to go.
However, I have also noticed some significant differences. Recently, I introduced my Burundian class to the concept of discussion and debate. It was not something they had come across before in school. They thoroughly enjoyed debating a range of issues.
Having addressed the issues of homework and uniform, we came to the subject of mobile phones. We looked at the question; Should children under 16 be allowed mobile phones? I sat in stunned silence as I listened to some of the arguments 'For'.
"Yes, of course. Because what if you're home on your own and someone comes to rob the house. You would need a phone to get help. Because while the robbers were shooting the workers and killing them, you could phone your mum or dad to come and help you. "
"Or if you had an accident while your mum and dad were at work, you would need a phone then to get help. Because your mum and dad can't be there all the time, can they? Sometimes they have to travel for work and you have to stay at home on your own. Then if your little sister falls and breaks her arm, you would need to phone and get someone to take her to hospital."
"And what if someone came to your house to try and kidnap you. You could hide in the cupboard and phone your dad and tell him to come home and shoot them."
"And once do you know what happened. It was the middle of the night and these robbers crept into the house and they stole everything. But they woke my little sister and she cried out. My dad got his gun and chased them. And he started shooting at them and they ran away. And my dad got all the stuff they had stolen from us and all the stuff they had stolen from other houses. We got a great big TV."
Hmmm I thought, not quite what I usually hear, when debating mobile phones.
We moved onto the topic of separating boys and girls for lessons. Should boys and girls be taught separately? After many points regarding the fact that boys and girls need to know how to get along. And although boys are very imature, it's better to have them around than not. One Rwandan lad stood up and with great aplomb announced,
' Boys needs girls to produce. Girls needs boys to produce. And that's my point.'
Ok, case closed!
It has been great fun introducing some practical activities into the Year 6 curriculum. I'm not sure but these may be Burundi's first Rocket Scientists.
There is enormous excitement surrounding the impending launch of our rockets, this coming Wednesday. Most of that excitement is mine! Because I'm getting to do a fun activity, without my hands tied up with all the Health and Safety strings, that I used to have in England! I might even be able to let the children go near the rockets and feel like they have launched them personally and not just watched me do it!!
I'm just wondering whether to go as far as the, 'custard powder + water, is it a solid or liquid?' experiment. It's great fun, but possibly a little too messy, for the limited cleaning facilities we have in a Burundian classroom. But I'm sorely tempted. Perhaps, we will stick to, 'Can you make a ball of plasticine float?' experiment.
As Harry Harrison would say: The world is my lobster!