Well, here I am back in Base... this time for the weekend. Yeah! It's pay-day for Peace Corps, so I had to come to the bank. But this also means getting to visit some other Peace Corps volunteers a bit and taking a little break from Fatoto. I do like it there, but I have to admit, it's really nice to occasionally get to see another Toubab. I am constantly the center of attention wherever I go... it's kind of hard to blend in when I'm the only white person in town.
I have been in Fatoto for a month now... so I am starting to get settled-in. My family is amazing. They have really made me feel like I am part of them. And I've made a few good friends in Fatoto as well.
Officially, I just finished my second week of school, but classes didn't really begin until this week. The first week, only three teachers (including myself) showed up and some students. In some ways, it was nice to get to meet some of the students before I began teaching them. All we really did was clean up the school, and talk a little bit about classroom policies, etc. I pulled a group of students into the science lab and we spent a day cleaning as much as we could, but I keep finding more to clean. The science lab actually has quite a few useful things. I have test tubes, beakers, graduated cylinders, magnets, posters depicting various things... there's not a whole lot of chemicals or supplies to carry out many experiments, but the basics are there. I'll just have to get creative. I'm excited to even have a science lab, really. Especially since it means that I get my own classroom, which is uncommon in many Gambian schools. The students usually stay in once class and the teachers change classrooms. And it is the same for the students at my school, but since there's a science room, they come to me for science. It's quite nice.
We still don't have all of the teachers we need, so I'm not sure how this is going to work out, and the 10th graders haven't yet received all of their results from testing last year, so they haven't begun classes yet, but I have begun teaching my 11th and 12th graders a bit. It's going to be challenging on many levels. I have 45 student in my 12th grade class, potentially 50 in my 11th grade class, but only 20 at the most showed up last week, and I'm not sure about 10th grade yet, but there should be 2 classes of 10th graders when those classes are determined. English is the language that is spoken in schools. Students in some schools are punished harshly for speaking in their native languages. I don't think the staff at Fatoto SSS punishes that infraction too harshly, but they try to enforce it, still the same. It makes it interesting in many ways. Some students have better English skills than others, but I don't feel like many of them (if any) are fluent, especially when it comes to subjects like science, that use words most native English speakers find difficult to understand. Then there's the whole matter of what to teach. I have been trying to figure out what they already have learned, and what they are supposed to learn by the end of Senior Secondary School when they take their final exams. There's a pretty intimidating syllabus outlining the information required for this exam.
Looks like that's all for now, I was just typing here at the internet cafe when the power was lost... it took a while for it to come back on, and now I'm out of time... I guess that's just how it goes sometimes. I'll try to update the next time I come to Basse.