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Teaching in Namibia

A Week in the Life of a Volunteer

Oshikuku, a small town located 30 kilometers northwest of Oshakati, Namibia, is my new home for at least the next year. The population is approximately 1,500 with four schools and a hospital. The landscape is flat and dotted with palm trees and sandy soil. It is currently the wet season and we have experienced heavy rains and spectacular storms.

I am living in a government house with a native Namibian, Dalia, who is a teacher at the Senior Secondary School. It is a 2- bedroom house with running water and electricity. As WorldTeach volunteers, the Ministry of Education supplies us with a gas stove, fridge, kitchen table, bed (which is pretty uncomfortable), and a steel cabinet, which acts as my wardrobe. Another WorldTeach volunteer lives in the house next door on his own.

Kids in the area frequently drop by to say hello or to get the palm fruits from the palm tree in our yard. A few of my seventh-grade boys are also frequent visitors to watch DVDs or play on my laptop. Cows, pigs, goats, and chickens also visit as they wander around the village grazing on whatever they can find.

Each week I make the journey into Oshakati to do my shopping and e-mailing. Oshakati is the “capital of the north” and has most of the items you might need. It has a few decent-sized supermarkets and a store similar to Target. To get there we get a “hike” with a local taxi—often jammed full with about seven people…it can be quite an experience.

After three months life begins to normalize a bit. Teaching becomes a little easier…I’m not sure if it is because I have gotten used to the kids or they have gotten used to me, but they no longer test my limits as much these days. My life has settled into more of a routine, so let me tell you what my average week is like:

MONDAY

My alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m., and I drag myself off for a cold shower, which is refreshing in the still warm weather. I leave home an hour later to walk to school; on the way I am greeted by my students. It’s then off to our weekly staff briefing. Each teacher rotates the responsibility of chairing the meetings and compiling the minutes. After briefing is Monday morning assembly where the kids sing songs both in English and Oshiwambo. The songs are mostly Christian, as assembly also doubles as a religious period. When we recite the Lord’s Prayer the kids find it funny that I also know it.

After assembly it is off to teach. I have two double periods for Grade 6. This takes me up to sixth period when I have a physical education lesson with the seventh graders. I end the day with a Basic Information Science class before I have the last period off.

After school I do administrative work or get some photocopying done. I usually head home at about 3 p.m. to have a much-awaited bite to eat. With only short breaks at school and no refrigerator I don’t take any food to school and instead have a small lunch when I get home. Then it is either marking or lesson planning.

TUESDAY

I have a pretty full teaching load on Tuesdays too—mainly because of two double English lessons for the seventh graders. I’m trying to push them a little harder, so I often get a lot of “Oooh eyeee Miss” when I give them some work that is a bit harder than they are used to. I laugh and tell them that this is why they come to school, to learn and be challenged. I only have one free period on Tuesdays, so by the end of the day I start to feel a little exhausted.

WEDNESDAY

Hump day is a good day, as I only teach five periods—all English. The last two periods I have another double class for the students in Grade 7. Like most 13- year-olds they get restless in the afternoon and sometimes the kids can test me a bit if I don’t have interesting work for them to do. After school is Sports Day, and I’ll often watch the boys play soccer…mainly to take photos. Some days I participate in netball training for the girls.

THURSDAY

This is a full day with seven teaching periods, and I meet with one of the classes four times…I’m sure they get sick of me. After school I have started helping with a program called “Window of Hope.” UNICEF established the program to raise self-esteem and AIDS awareness among the fourth and fifth graders. About 60 kids are involved, so we split the group into two different afternoon sessions. Thursday nights have also become a time when I catch up with two American Peace Corps volunteers working nearby in Oshikuku. We usually head down to the local bar and exchange details of our weeks and just relax.

FRIDAY

This is another easy day with only five teaching periods, and we finish at 1:10 p.m. After school I often head into Oshakati to meet up with some other volunteers for pizza and maybe a visit to the Internet café.

THE WEEKEND

Saturday varies depending on what is happening, but mostly I head into town to do some shopping and take care of chores like banking and the post office. Sunday is usually my washing day— washing by hand does take some time so this may be a 1- to 2-hour activity. I try to finish off any marking and do most of my lesson planning for the week. I also try to keep my schedule flexible as I never know who will drop in and sometimes teachers call me to help them on the computer at school, so I find it is best to just go with the flow.

Each night I crawl under my mosquito net and hope for a good night’s sleep and hope that the water will be on in the morning. The other week we went for some 48 hours without any water…let’s just say that we now have plenty of water stored around the house to get us through basics of bathing, cooking, and washing dishes. Welcome to Namibia.

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