“Water water everywhere”, a beginner’s guide to Thaba Tseka and self-reflection male style!!!
So as the time flies by we are gradually realizing that life in Thaba Tseka is OK. There is the odd period of time when you wish that there was a local play, or that you could go to a concert, but generally I’m never bored. I think the hardest thing is the isolation. Planning any journey or visit involves the sort of logistics needed by Scott of the Antartic. A 120 km journey to Maseru involves the taxi ride from hell as detailed previously. Booking accommodation starts with paying a deposit through the bank as invariably plastic isn’t used. It makes you wonder when life got so detached in the UK.
Buying food in the stalls or supermarkets and looking at butternut squash, cabbage, beetroot, onions and potatoes in the veg section, makes you realize what an amazing choice we have in whatever supermarket you visit in Wales.
Thaba Tseka itself is a unique experience. Sort of Dodge City circa the goldrush, only in this case the Katse Dam project created the opportunity. Everyone here tries to sell something. You walk along the road to be faced by a large woman with a big pot of peas, or the white flags flying above certain houses indicating that the local brew (untried by us) is available. The town has two parallel roads but is then littered with small mud paths with shops on them. The shacks can vary from being pharmacists to selling kitchen utensils. All made from corrugated iron. There are some demountables, which are the more upmarket sections – our favorite and most frequently visited store – the book shop is one of these. By bookshop I mean a stationary store, which caters for school books as well. We invariably spend a fortune here buying paper for wall displays and posters and sketch books.
Over the last few weeks I’ve sensed a change with the classes I’m working with. There is a better working understanding, they are more inquisitive and happy to look for more challenging examples. They are referring to previous work and using classroom resources to help them. It hasn’t been reflected in their assessment scores, but I think this is due to them not really being used to revising or knowing any strategies for helping them to do this.
Weather wise it’s been a complete change. Thunderstorms, torrential rain and a general drop in temperature. It’s caused a level of claustrophobia because we are in the house far more. It has also resulted in tragedy. The infrastructure here is new, roads and bridges alternate between genuine tarmac and paths. One such path crossing a gully with a short bridge was covered in water due to a flash flood. A taxi was swept away resulting in numerous deaths. The area is still in shock.
This last week we ticked off our third joint challenge after HiJinx and St. David’s Day. On the 22nd we set up the WASH challenge. The four primary schools were invited to put forward 6 children to become WASH ambassadors. After training they would take on a role of trainers in each year group on issues of hygiene and sanitation. Most of this was linked to Dolen’s support for new toilets at Thaba Tseka school. Having been trained the day itself was a competition between the schools involving quizzes, problem solving and a relay. The event was mirrored in Wales through the support of Vicki’s school at Ninian Park. Before the event the competition had been promoted with insights from Paray’s WASH champions on the local radio. In the end torrential rain limited the competition to the indoor Quiz elements. Seeing the children’s faces when they walked into a government building with tables set out with water and biscuits and every chair displaying their free t shirt was worth all the effort. The competition was tight with a mere 5 points separating the teams. In the end the handwash exercise was the difference. Thaba Tseka school won with an impressive 40 from a possible 46.
Our walks varied this last fortnight. A week or so ago with us all struggling with colds we went towards the airfield and then meandered past a prison. Inmates were shouting so we took a gully towards the secondary school. Not challenging but a lovely ramble. Last Saturday though we headed up the mountains again, so quiet and isolated with stunning views over towards Loti school and in a different direction the gorge and further the Drakonsberg range.
With only a couple of days in schools this week and assessments on there’s been an Alice Cooper “schools out” feel about the time we’ve spent there. It’s been nice to tie up loose ends. The resident quantity surveyor has sorted out the old water wells in Thaba Tseka, I think when Vicki gets back WAG should seriously take her on in terms of new build infrastructure for school. Local businessmen cringe with fear when she enters, and wilt when her 10% discount glare is released. Vicki’s mantra is that we maximize how much we can get for the children.
So I’m looking at the wheel of fortune (reflection) update and suddenly I’m riddled with self doubt. Why is it that unless it’s from a magazine or Facebook self reflection is such a painful process. Those where it’s what sort friend are you are so much easier! You are always wondering what your strengths are and possibly worrying as to how your perception of yourself matches others.
One thing I’ve discovered is that I can live with other people and keep my feelings tempered even if in disagreement or tired. This will probably surprise to Claudia and most of those that have worked with me. We are bound to have some disagreements but we know that mutual support is essential. I’m not sure if we are a “dream team” maybe more a “turbo triad” but I think the general mantra is that we want to make a difference in this wonderful place and we are as the Welsh football team stated “together stronger”.
I’ve also learnt how much better I could have been as a teacher and how if instead of having merely to judge lessons as a member of SLT, I’d sat down and really understood what people were doing, my own lessons could genuinely have incorporated so many great methods. I’m thinking about really great teachers I’ve seen at my school like Kath, Bethan B, Alex, and in his own idiosyncratic style, Byron. I could go on with so many others but maybe I should say how much could I have improved. Working with Vicki a primary practitioner has been an eye opener and a complete new learning experience.
Next week I meet up with Claudia in Zimbabwe. It’s been hard being apart but thanks to whatsapp manageable. Mandy at Dolen has come up trumps with helping the journey and assuaging pre holiday concerns regarding the M&E experience. I’m happy going for a break and after her kind words knowing that we are doing an amazing job here building links and sowing ideas.