Gwenn Edwards writes:
“I retired in 2010 and did the usual things – travelled – learnt to play golf – but there was always a bit of me that wanted to do some voluntary work in Africa. So I got in touch with an organisation called Malaika Kids who support a children’s village in Tanzania. The village is supported from the UK and Holland and is a purpose built village. There are up to 72 children living in the village who live in family groups supported by a ‘mother’. Children attend the local primary school along with 10 young people attending secondary school – some of these on a boarding basis.
Malaika Kids recently set up a pre-primary class in the village, Sandra, a recent volunteer with extensive early-years’ experience, recently gave three months hands-on help and advice to the local teachers running the class. In this class there are 11 children aged 3-8 years along with a crèche for fewer than 3s. Previously the younger children had been attending a local nursery for about 3 hours each day and were left without any other input until the following day. There isn’t the culture in this part of Tanzania of playing with the children, reading to them etc. the things that the majority of children here experience.
I was tasked with developing English with the children who were waiting to hear if they had passed the end of primary school exams to get into secondary schools. They had left school in the September and would hopefully start their secondary education at the beginning of the school year in January – so they faced a long wait without any education.
There were another three boys who did not attend school – Omary had learning difficulties and needed specialised education – but still needed stimulation, Michael had never been to any sort of school – he was about 10 and didn’t know how to hold a pencil and Deo who was a delightful challenge – he had at some stage been in school but had spent such a long time on the street his concentration was very limited.
So initially I started English classes for the three boys – very basic but essential as their knowledge of English was limited and if they were to attend secondary school it would be taught through the medium of English. My background was not as an English teacher but as psychology, health and special education in the secondary sector. We had a regular one and a half hour class where they were given a choice of activities at the end of the class…..reading, games etc. As time went on I realised that their numeracy was also weak so integrated some number lessons into the programme.
After this session I had a session with the boys who were school age – what a challenge! Omary liked certain puzzles and books so he would have those initially – Michael I took back to all the pre-writing skills and Dao, I found, loved jigsaws which were a fantastic way to increase his attention span.
Then it was an open session for the little ones returning from nursery up until lunchtime. It could get quite hectic but fun!
When I arrived in the village there weren’t any story books in the children’s own language, Swahili, so my friends had sent me out with money so I bought lots of books for them. You should have seen the joy when they realised that they were in their language. So we would have afternoon reading sessions with children sprawled around just reading – it was fantastic.
These children had never had an real childhood and missed so much school from different circumstances – so what they need is enrichment – they want people to go out there and talk to them – play with them and build up their skills and confidence. There is so much more I could tell you; if you are thinking you might like to do something like this – it doesn’t matter what sector of education or subject you have taught - you could give such a lot to these children.