Classes started last week, but of course the teachers and administration started on the same day. When I tried to explain that in America the staff come at least a couple of days before the students start to arrive so everything would be prepared and classes can be taught on the first day, but they just looked at me like I was crazy.
Teacher: “Doesn’t that cut the teachers break short? Why should we get a shorter break?”
Me: “If we came maybe 3 days earlier we could have started teaching on the first day and the students wouldn’t be sitting in the classrooms doing nothing.”
Teacher: *stares, wide-eyed* “I don’t understand, why should we have shorter break?”
Me: “Our job as teachers is to teach these students, not let them sit in class and do nothing while we organize ourselves”
Teacher: *another blank stare* “Sifahamu (I don’t understand)” *walks away*
Me (in my head): You’re paid to teach these students, do your freaking job.
So, I didn’t actually meet my students until the second week of school, but of course 2/3 of the students were sent home because they haven’t paid their school fees (though secondary school should be public and free). Why they weren’t sent home the first week when they were just sitting doing nothing is beyond me.
The first day of actual class was spent giving out books, taking down numbers, introducing myself, explaining the difference between America and Kenya, explaining why I’m here, and trying not to let the whispering/giggling and wide-eyed, open-mouthed stares bother me. On the second day, I taught a double lesson, but I can’t tell if they actually understood the info the material. It’s like talking to a brick wall. They just stare, stare, maybe whisper and giggle, but mostly just stare. When they do speak or answer a question, they whisper the answer to me or they put their hands over the mouth and answer the question, so I have to ask them to repeat maybe 5 times before I actually understand.
Everyday I do notice that the whispering and staring diminishes a little. Some students even greet and converse with me like I’m human.
Until February I’ll only be teaching one Biology class (4 classes a week) and 1 PE/Life Skills class a week. I’m waiting for Form 1s (freshmen) to arrive. The Form 1 students are waiting to be chosen to be accepted into a school. It’s like a draft based on how they did on their KCPE (national exam for primary schools). Basically it’s like applying to college solely based on your SAT scores, if the SAT was a cumulative exam of what you learned the past 8 years in each subject. So, until February (hopefully they’ll show up on time) I’ll have ample of time to keep staring at my walls.
On a side note, I’ve seen my first fresh dead body. I was on a matatu and then noticed that we were slowing down on some random road. I thought we were just going to squeeze another person into this already packed matatu, but then we came to a full stop and everybody got out of the matatu. Before I realized what was happening, I was being pushed towards a crowd where everybody was grouped around a woman sprawled on the road, many bones obviously broken, blood coming out of her head, and cabbage scattered all around her. Apparently she was hit by a matatu, but not sure if it was hit and run or if police took care of it. Some prayed, but most people just gawked. Then before I knew it, they pushed me back onto the matatu and we left. That is a hard image to erase from your head, but apparently it’s common to see bodies on the side of the road hit by car/bus/pikipiki. It is uncommon however for the matatu to stop and everybody get out to stare. Sigh, TIA.