Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Outstations Part 2

Earlier this month, I went with Sr. Pat to visit outstation schools in Mungi and Letwa. Sr. Pat began a nursery school in Chepynal and has worked tirelessly in the outstations to help to support nurseries and develop nursery teachers. We went to these areas to see how the schools were developing and what the needs were in each of them. I was also invited to do an art project with the children while we were there.

Our first stop was Mungit, a small village on a mountain top, about a 35 minute drive from Chepynal. It is a very dry and desert like area where there is little water. The school there went from nursery to 5th grade. The youngest students were in a semi-permanent building with a dirt floor and walls made of mud. Grades 3 to 5 were located in a newer permanent building. There was only one certified teacher in the school. The other teachers were graduates of 8th grade. It is difficult to get teachers for schools in these remote and difficult living conditions.

35 nursery children participated in the art project. I had made paper kites for the children to paint and then fly. We laid a large sheet of plastic under a tree for the children to sit on and work. They had never done anything like I,t so everything about painting these strange paper objects was new. It took them time to simply dip the brush in the paint and make a mark, no matter how many times I encouraged or demonstrated it for them. But little by little, we could see them discovering what they were doing. When they were finished they tried to fly the kite, which was another foreign experience for them. They would stand and hold the string. The wind would come and raise the kite and it would fall again. Then, the children saw us run with the kite and watched them fly into the sky. Soon they were all running and laughing. The whole school came out to watch!

In Letwa, classrooms ranged from partially finished brick buildings to sitting on rocks or benches under a tree. No matter where the class was the children were eager to learn. This area is located in a valley with mountains surrounding them. There were over 30 nursery children in the school. There I prepared a simple paper toy and finger puppets. The head-teacher, or principal, assistant chief of the area, and the nursery teacher were all there to help with the children. The children colored with crayons and decorated the paper and bead toys with colored paper. They quickly caught on to how to play with the toy, trying to catch beads attached with yarn to the paper pocket. The children played and played, smiling with each try. The paper finger puppets brought light to their eyes as they saw the expressions of the lion, bear, and elephant I showed them. They drew the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth on their puppets and began saying the only English word they knew…”sister, sister.” I fitted the puppets on their finger and they began to hold it in the air showing me and their friends in class. They were full of life and discovery. Their faces will remain with me for a long time.

As you will see from the photos these two areas are very poor…but they are not without great potential and joy.

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