Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Adventures in Pre-school

I've been thinking about pre-school for Grace for a while now. Pre-school in general has never been that big of a deal to me, namely because I taught kindergarten for a couple years and I know what I need to do to prepare her for it. But there's one thing I can't teach her: Swahili. And that is a very big deal to me.

My Swahili is pretty limited. I can get by on certain topics; my house worker and various store owners and fix-it men usually seem to know what I am talking about, even though I'm sure I'm butchering the language. The problem is that to become fluent in a language, you need to be immersed in it, and I'm not. HOPAC and all of our ministry is done in English. It's also the official business language here, and all the secondary schools in Tanzania are taught in English. So anyone who is educated speaks English.

But it still is very much the heart language of Tanzanians. And since Grace is Tanzanian, living in Tanzania, it's very important to us that she learn it. So, I've wanted to put her in a Tanzanian pre-school.

Problem is that most pre-schools around here are in English. Why? Because anyone who is able to afford pre-school wants his children to learn English, not Swahili.

So finally I found out about a Swahili pre-school. A Tanzanian pastor we know, who is the head cleaner at HOPAC, told me that there's a little pre-school run in his church.

Today Grace and I went to check it out. I knew not to expect much, but well.... Hmmm.

The teacher is a beautiful young woman with a kind heart who obviously is doing this as a ministry. Each child pays 3000 shillings a month. You know how much that is? About $2.00. Per month. Per child.

The children sit in the concrete church building, about a dozen of them ranging in ages from 2-6. The teacher has a flip board up front with letters and pictures and numbers on it. She asks one student to stand. She has him repeat: a-askari, e-eroplane, o-oga, etc. She has him repeat it again. And again. And again. About 15 times. Then she moves on to the next child. All the other children just sit and wait.

And thus it goes. For four hours. The children never get up, never move out of their seats, never go out to play. Just keep repeating the teacher. Again and again and again.

Hmmm. But you know what? Grace liked it. She wasn't as excited about it as Disneyland, but she liked it and wants to go back. So what do I do? I really want her to learn Swahili.

We'll see. There's a HOPAC teacher who has started working with the pre-school teacher and is trying to train her and give her ideas. We only have a month until our Home Assignment, so maybe we'll try it this month and see how it goes.

Once again, as usual....just another reminder of how totally and completely and utterly blessed I am. The contrast between the opportunities afforded to my children, compared to these other precious little ones, did not escape my notice.
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