In April this year, an international organisation approached and offered me an opportunity to train 400 teachers across 8 different circuits in Namibia. The training was to be on how to teach initial reading skills to Grades 1-3.
I jumped at the opportunity without thinking twice.
When I got here though, it wasn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be. In fact, it was a grand shock to my system.
I hadn’t worked full time since Aanavi was born; been away from a home environment for this long or anywhere this rural for more than a day or two. I was wholly unprepared for this and after two days I rang my husband and said, “I’m coming home!”
The hotel facilities were far lower than what you would expect from a 3*; the vegetarian food ranged from eggs on toast, cheese and tomato sandwiches and pasta with onions and tomatoes. When we were lucky we got mashed potatoes. The staff have more than made up it though – they are so warm and caring and have gotten to know us so well. Today when I walked back in, exhausted and hot, they brought my tea in a MUG, not a cup, without me asking for it! It may be my last day, and the first time they actually got it right, but they did! :)
I was contracted (and paid) to work 2 hours a day on workshops. My first day at work was a 10 hour day. The next was the same. Eventually we got it down to 6-7 hours.
Long drives through bush and gravel, stopping to allow for donkeys, goats, cattle and chicken to cross the road whilst I sweated away and read book after book, blog after blog. It was so mindless that I actually found myself asking on one of these journeys, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
Only to find that the answer really is, to get to the other side! :)
I spent my first week homesick, frustrated, regretful and complaining miserably to my husband, worried about malaria, malnutrition and all sorts of things that existed only in my mind.
But then I did my Kriya, I meditated and I made peace with my situation through a calmer mind. I read knowledge from my Guru and today, as I am on my way to my last workshop and as I celebrate my last day here, I am also able to look at things with a very grateful heart.
For all the self-doubt I had, I now know that I can do anything that I put my mind and heart into.
I gave each workshop my best, and really got the best results out of it too. Something I didn’t anticipate being so successful when I had cows mooing and goats bleating as a most appropriate background score to my very own ‘The Gods Must be Crazy’ script.
For all the complaining I did about the food (they even fed me chicken once by mistake), I met with the chef and he is such a wonderful guy who really tried his best to cater to my dietary preferences. I have only compassion and smiles for him now. Today my eight plate of spaghetti napoletena was really pretty good!
I’ve learnt so much about this country, it’s people and their needs. There is a great hunger for learning here and honest value for quality trainings in education. Their teachers are passionate, dedicated and committed to giving their learners the best of them. I am truly privileged to have been able to help, if only for a few hours a day. There is an immense sense of satisfaction in knowing that your efforts can be valued beyond what you even anticipated. Their sincere learning made all my frustrations worth it.
I learnt that we rise by lifting others.
A real eye-opener was how these teachers needed things for themselves. I came here with the children in mind, and I leave with a place in my heart for the teachers instead. Teachers who held on to every word of mine, absorbing knowledge that I take for granted.
We talked about how to teach English in a multi-sensory, kinaesthetic way… But in classrooms with no resources – so our resources became water, rice, maize flour and chalk. Hop scotch patterns, cardboard boxes and egg cartons were our tools of preference.
We shared recipes for play dough and talked about taking learning outdoors – using trees, leaves and sand.
As I pack to leave tonight, I am packing all these ideas and experiences too.
This amazing adventure has been worth every second of the heat, dust and hunger I went through.
The feedback from teachers is rewarding beyond belief. But on those forms, other than some ego-boosting comments, you also see another great need – and that’s the language needs of the teachers themselves. We reached out to such remote areas that many teachers are not qualified or fluently literate, they can just read or write a bit better than others in their communities.
Sometimes the teachers were more excited about the free sweets, juice and muffins they were getting because it was just such a novelty to them! You can then imagine the gratitude they had when they received posters and books for their classrooms!
This is not just Namibia’s story, this is the story of our continent.
I daren’t complain about my lack of little luxuries again. Aanavi got through her days without me with some style and lots of smile. She sees me in the evening and announces, “Mumma mwah!” Letting me know she wants some mother smother time!
I learnt how to be a passionate educator from villages of teachers wherever I went.
I learnt that I can pioneer through eight-hour drives in scorching sunshine and live up to what I started – Raising Education Within Africa. I exceeded my own expectations of myself and there is no greater sense of achievement than that.
My experience over these 12 days was not difficult, it was an honour and a privilege.
Added to the honour of being here, was the honour and support I received from my family and friends back home! To you all, thank you for encouraging me and keeping a smile on my face via what’s app and Facebook these past 12 days!
I know that at this given time, in the right here and now, only I could have undertaken this initiative. I don’t regret it for I know I was chosen for it – not merely to empower the 400 teachers in Northern Namibia who I reached, but to honour myself with the knowledge that I have an even greater power within.
When we break out of all our comfort zones, defy our own limitations and expectations, that is where the magic of life is.
On Monday 6th July, I felt like a little girl at boarding school again.
Today I feel grown up.
There’s an African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child… Well it’s taken 8 villages in Namibia to raise me!