Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Big things have been happening in Nam this past week! Recently I started to hear my colleagues talking about going on strike, for lack of a salary increase, in addition to benefits and several other things like transportation and housing allowances. Teachers have been unhappy with the way that the teachers' union was negotiating with the government for them. I didn’t think that anything would spread all the way down to Luderitz – my school has a lot of teachers, and though I love them, they are mostly apathetic about things/mobilizing 30 teachers is a big task for anyone.  People had been talking here and there about strikes but I definitely did not think anything would come of it. Well guess who was wrong?! Last Tuesday during our staff meeting I saw a very energized group of people ready to join the striking cause. The rest of the teachers in Luderitz were called and, from what I was told about the meeting, they decided it was time to join the other regions that were striking. And so the Luderitz schools went on strike starting last Wednesday. Kind of bummed that I didn’t get to give my kids Halloween candy, but ah well. Thursday they marched around town, going to the Mayor’s office and then outside town to the Regional Councilor’s office. By the end of last week the strikes seemed to have spread to most of the country. We were supposed to have two weeks left before exams, and I am not done with my marks, so I’m getting pretty anxious about that! Also, if this continues any longer I’m going to be legitimately quite bored. I have exhausted all my external hard drive’s media, and also planning for my world tour after COS for the moment, so I really need to find a hobby, and asap.

Anyway, when it comes to this striking business, we Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to get involved, just stay home if they’re marching and don’t teach if the strikes spread to our schools. The situation is complex, and pretty interesting I think, so here are a couple of links to articles you can read if you have any interest in knowing what’s been going on – especially regarding the now strained relationship between Namibian teachers and the main teacher’s union of Namibia, NANTU, and the talks between NANTU and the government/Ministry of Education.

PS fingers crossed that if the negotiations go according to schedule and finish Wednesday that we should be back to teaching on Thursday!

Friday, November 2, 2012

End of the Term SheNAMigans

Ay, it is nearing the end of the school year this side, and these learners are intent on driving me insane officially. How so you may ask? Run-through of what has been happening in my classroom over the past few weeks:

    At least one learner shared her nantjies with me!
  • I’m not sure if they’re in season now or what, but there is an Owambo fruit called nantjies – hard to describe, but they’re small and round, have shells like peanuts that you have to crack with your teeth, then there’s a tiny bit of fruit, which surrounds a solid size of a seed. I don’t get the appeal of this food because it’s a lot of work for very little actual edible content. Maybe the kids came to a similar realization, but they found another use for the seeds – throwing them at each other in the middle of class! I got hit with one the other day while writing on the chalkboard, and it did not yield a happy reaction. These seed wars cause a great many fights, since often girls get targeted who are actually trying to work, and getting hit in the back of the head doesn’t feel so nice. And then my classroom floor is covered in these strange black seeds. 
  • Spitballs. This is the standard go-to. All the pens here can be taken apart, and are taken apart quite often. Who needs to use the plastic part of the pen to grip when you can forgo doing work and spit wads of paper at people’s heads with it instead?! This has died down a little bit because my ears are fine-tuned to spot where the blowing sounds come from, and the learners don’t get their cases back if I catch them. Now they just make the spitballs and throw them… slow progress. 
  • Over break time every day a couple teachers and a lot of kids sell sweets/chips. Curses be upon whoever started selling lollipops with sticks that are whistles! Of course all the kids save the whistles, and the boys proceed to start whistling in the middle of class then hide them when I try and find the culprits. After a while I got good enough at catching people and grabbing the sticks from them before they were hidden. So then, naturally, the same kids figured out they could cause me to be equally annoyed if they just whistled normally, no tools necessary.
  • The other day three of my naughtiest learners – who I purposefully have sitting far from each other in my classroom – started playing the most bizarre game ever. One of my rules is to ask permission to leave your seat, but obviously for the naughty ones my rules don’t matter, because getting up is a crucial part of this game. From what I understand, whenever one of them spoke in Afrikaans, another one would get up, walk purposefully across the classroom [yes, this is in the middle of class while I’m trying to teach] and, with force, smack the boy in the back of the head. Three times this happened before I marched them out of my classroom. 


learners line up with their diplomas
Last weekend was the end of year ceremony for the learners with the highest marks in their classes. You had to have a 75 or above in one or more of your classes to be able to attend. One of the HODs announced learners in order of their marks, starting with those with 75 and continuing in ascending order to the one with the highest mark in the class. For grades 5-7, this process occurred for each of the subjects that you have to pass in order to move on to the next grade: english, math, natural science, social studies, home ecology [girls], design and technology [boys], and afrikaans. Then at the end the top three learners overall in each grade with their percentage for the year received prizes, and finally the top learner in lower primary, and the top learner in upper primary were announced to a room full of cheers! I was on cake duty for much of this evening, and we cut a massive amount of cake - each learner gets a plate, and so do each of their parents. Either the cake is getting better and better, or I have been in Namibia for a long time now, because last year I don't remember it being very good, but this time it was great!!
probably about 1/3 of the cake we cut.

Anyway, let’s just say that the children are not the only ones looking forward to the end of the term/year. Because after the term ends I’m going back to AMERICA for the December holiday!!!!!!! Unbelievably excited, countdown has begun, 6 weeks to go!