Villa Maria

Faced with the growing realisation that our departure date is looming ever closer, there is an increased impetus to maximise the remaining time. This can be difficult as maintaining consistency is not easy in a Lesotho classroom. As the singing competition approaches all afternoon lessons have been cancelled for the next two weeks. At Villa Maria singingis as important as breathing and very little impedes the possibility of winning yet another trophy. 

As a secondary school teacher I am surprised by the pleasure I have gained from teaching the lower grades, particularly grade two. After several months they understand my accent and respond so clearly and accurately to my instructions and questions. I see so much progress that it reminds how rewarding teaching is. As teachers we accept that our rewards are often slow and small but with this class its leaps and bounds. However I cannot take all the credit as the wonderfulgrade two teacher has created a visually exciting environment where students feel confident and engaged.

It is hard to think about leaving. The country and the people have slowly burrowed their way under my skin, and relationships with colleagues and children have been forged and strengthened. Teaching in Lesotho has brought me back to the very basics of teaching. Stripped of every technological convenience I have had to improvise and create in a way I thought that was no longer possible, but I know I am a better teacher because of it. There is no photocopying here, it is pointless because there is no electricity. Everything is done by hand, but you learn to how to adapt and maximise resources and time.
Basotho people think we want for nothing and have the answer to everything. It is true we have advanced teaching methods and live comfortably, but it is incomprehensible to them how much they have given me. Their joy in everyday things, patience and acceptance is infectious and will stay with me long after I have left this amazing country.

The leaving ceremony will always be a special memory for me. There were the usual traditional dances and songs but also poems especially written for me. I had been warned that I might be expected to change in traditional costume out on the field and this was in fact true. As the teachers were singing I was suddenly being pulled about by several women changing me into a seshoeshoe dress. No time for bashfulness as I was quickly ushered into the middle of the field for a parade. This process was repeated again as I was then changed into a very elaborate Xhosa costume. It was a very emotional but special occassion that concluded a truly amzing experience.

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