Iona Smith – First Report from Otjikondo

Iona Smith 1

I have now been living in Otjikondo for just over two months and so far my time here has flown by. In my first post I thought I would give an insight into the work that I am doing here.

Before I begin I would just like to say an enormous thank you to Hazel’s Footprints Trust. I feel so lucky to be working where I am and couldn’t have done it without the funding I was given. I cannot thank them enough.

We have really hit the ground running since arriving here in August and haven’t really stopped very often since!

I’ll start at the very beginning of our Namibian adventure, which feels like ages ago but the time has also flown since then. We arrived in Windhoek on the 29th of August and set off for Otjikondo two days later. We were driven there by a teacher from school in a car very full of children. I was in the back with three girls and there were many little boys squished in the boot like sardines. On the way we encountered many warthogs and nearly ran some over, silly Pumba. We were warmly welcomed by our fabulous hosts and after two days we were teaching lessons!

Before I jump into riveting tales about my time here so far, I must give you an idea of what we actually do at Otjikondo.

Our week begins with assembly at 6.45:this pretty much consists of a few notices and lots of singing and dancing. Ella and I both nearly burst into tears at our first assembly in front of the whole school because their singing of the Namibian national anthem was so beautiful and they automatically sing in four part harmonies- a stark contrast to Monday morning assemblies back in Scotland.

We teach art and PT lessons to grades 1-7 from 7am- 1pm every week day to classes of up to 38. We are doing touch rugby with the older grades in PT which I am really enjoying because they haven’t played it before and seem to love it, which is so rewarding. Teaching the younger grades can sometimes be a little bit more challenging. A PT lesson with a large class of Grade 1s in a vast open space is somewhat similar to herding cats.

We have changed our tactics and now do Zumba with them inside, which we alllove because we get to bust our best moves to our favourite tunes. Art lessons are easier in some respects as the children are in a confined space and relatively stationary. We have somehow managed to think of enough space themed ideas to see us through to the end of term, which is a huge weight lifted off our shoulders (creds to Pinterest).

School finishes at 1pm and after a hearty lunch and a large coffee we are raring to go for another 3 hours of activities from 3pm. I teach piano lessons during this time (8 lessons per week) and then lead various activity groups such as beadwork, craft or a playgroup. When we finish working at 6pm we usually go back to the flat: collapse on the floor; cook up a cracking dinner; prep for future lessons; write our diaries and have a good old chuckle.

Fridays are a bit different because we have Nativity rehearsals in the afternoon instead of activities. There is something slightly surreal about singing Christmas carols in the middle of the desert in September when its 35°C, but I thoroughly enjoy it. The kids are so keen about it and they were so excited when they all got their scripts. Next term we will be directing the school musical and I honestly cannot wait!

On Fridays we also supervise TV for about 200 children. With a ratio of 100 kids:1 member of staff it can be quite challenging to make them all be quiet, especially since the older ones have usually seen all the films many times before.

On Saturday mornings I clean the art room with my little gang of helpers for three hours. I really enjoy cleaning since it is with a small group so I get to know them all. Once there is some music on it goes pretty quickly. Once the art room is sparkling clean Ella and I run bank. This is essentially giving all the children their pocket money for the shop so they can buy sweets. When all the children have received their money we run to the shop to give a helping hand.

Despite not being a brought up as a Christian, I love church on a Sunday. The church services here are very different from any I have been to at home. It involves lots of singing, clapping and praising of the lord- I rate it highly.

After Church we either help the children write letters to their sponsors, if they have been sent anything through the post, or run birthday cupboard. I especially enjoy running the birthday cupboard because I get to help the kids choose some new clothes that have been donated to the school. They all get so excited are so appreciative of their new stuff. We go for Sunday lunch with the children in the dining hall. The food is pretty good considering the number of children they simultaneously have to cook for- I have never seen a mountain of pasta so large in my life.

For the rest of Sunday we usually prepare for future lessons or activity groups. It takes a lot of time and planning to produce enough ideas to fill a full terms worth of art and PT lessons plus craft, beadwork and playgroup so we dedicate a lot of our spare time to that. Currently our Sunday afternoons are taken up with extra rehearsals as both the Grade 7 Farewell performance and Nativity are this month.

I have learned that there is a direct correlation between organisation and enjoyment. The more organised and prepared I am for a lesson, the more I will enjoy it, feel excited about teaching it and most importantly the more the kids will benefit.

We are constantly faced with different challenges every day and I feel as though I have achieved so much already.  Otjikondo is an amazingly busy, fun and happy place. I am so lucky to call it my home for this year.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read through my blog, I really appreciate it! I hope this gives a good insight into what life is like here and you enjoyed reading it. I have so many more stories to write about but I shall save them for another time as I have already written far more than initially anticipated.

Iona Smith arrives at Otjikondo School

One Response to Iona Smith – First Report from Otjikondo

  1. Christine Kent says:

    Hello Iona,
    I am a mentor at Hatfield College, Durham. I have just read your report written in September last year. It sounds like you’re having lots of fun and putting loads of effort into everything you do. Well done! Looking forward to reading your next one. Christine.

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