Sunday, October 28, 2012

English Class at the Refugee Camp… I mean Reception Center

October 9th, 2012

The Camp has a new name I guess.  It’s no longer a refugee camp but now it’s a reception center for refugees.  Not sure what is the exact definition of a reception center or the purpose of a name change, but we will find out in the next 9 months.

Anyways, our third term teaching English at the… um… center has begun.  This makes it sound very formal calling it third term, as if some higher authority tells us when to start and stop.  Nope we just simply follow the Swazi school term schedule and its term three currently.  However I have to say our classes are feeling more and more formal and organized as time goes by. 

I am teaching the intermediate class again and have all the same students and guess what, I actually know all their names.  Most of my students are from Somalia and they all have the same 10 names in different combinations, so I was having a hard time remembering who was who.  For example I have a Hussan and a Hussein, as well as a several students named Mohamed or Muhamud and one with both those in his name.  However, I proved on day the first day of this term that I had learned.  I was able to call them each by name without a cheat sheet.  Last term I made them sit in a seating arrangement so I had a guide to use to remember their names and this term I am letting them sit where they want.  Its seems so small but its actually a very big accomplishment for me.

Term three started off great.  I lost a few students who decided to return to their home countries but gained a few who just came into Swaziland.  I got my first female student, which is great!  This term we are focusing on reading comprehension and using children’s stories to practice listening and understanding English and developing responses to what we hear.  So far the students are enjoying the stories.  The stories also introduce lots of new vocabulary for them to learn and they get to be active in their learning by choosing what vocabulary words we focus on.

It’s hard to access just how much their English is improving but we get feedback from our refugee counterparts who co-teach with us.  So far the feedback is that the students are really improving.  Some are learning and using more words, some are improving their grammar skills, and some have just developed the confidence to practice using what they know.  They say English is being heard a lot more around the camp and the students are happy to have the lessons.  I’m happy to have students who are so dedicated!  We have strict rules in our classrooms (or refugee hut which serves as our classroom) and my students obey them well, they do their homework, they participate, and they show up on time.  In America we take for granted that when we plan a meeting people generally show up and show up on time, when we volunteer our service to someone they are generally more than appreciative and don’t turn around and ask for more without a thank you, and we usually don’t slap the hand that is willing to help when what the giver has to offer isn’t exactly what we wanted.  These are all challenges I find as a volunteer in Swaziland.  Its just so nice to know that I have a successful project teaching English to people who not only work with me, but respect me, and respect themselves enough to make a difference in their own lives and don’t just expect me to hand them a free ticket to an easier life.

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