Nomtsuob: This is the location within Tsumeb where our schools are located. Again, a “location” refers to an area that was designated for blacks during apartheid – they tend to be poorer than other parts of town. To me this is most noticeable on the road from Dylan’s school to mine. When we turn on my school’s street we drive past about six “sheebens” (bars) in tin shack buildings. We haven’t seen too much of the residential part of the location.
Nomtsuob Primary School: This is my (Christiy’s) school! There’s about 750 learners and 25 teachers. Each class has around 40 learners. The teachers generally speak Afrikaans when they’re together, so hopefully I will be using that language training! Most of the classrooms are pretty nice, at least comparable to what I saw in our training town. There are three temporary classrooms in trailer cars that are not very nice – they told me to watch where I’m stepping so as not to fall through the floor! The teachers I’ve interacted with have been very nice and very good at interacting with the learners, although maybe not so good at keeping perfect discipline in the classroom. The biggest frustration has been absent teachers – there are four missing this week because of government training workshops, and there are two or three others who are at school but spend all day doing administrative work instead of teaching. There’s no such thing as a substitute teacher here – the kids just don’t have any supervision. So far I’ve stepped in and led about 3 classes – and this is supposed to be just observation week for me! My favorite thing was the Monday morning assembly where we all sang worship songs for twenty minutes!
Opawa Junior Secondary School: I (Dylan) am going to make a brief appearance in this blog to give my impressions of my school, Opawa Junior Secondary School. There are about 575 learners in grades 6-10 (although they are phasing out the lower grade levels and next year it will only be grades 7-10). It is actually the oldest school in Tsumeb, founded in 1905, and as a result it is no surprise that some of the classrooms are in need of renovations. I've been doing a bunch of observations so far – some of the teachers are pretty great. Apparently they had a volunteer (from Egypt of all places) who had to leave after the last term and since then his math classes have been run by a student who graduated from 12th grade last year. Those are the classes that I'll be helping out with when we permanently come here at the end of October. Overall the discipline at the school seems pretty good, although I could see the learners trying to take advantage of me as a new teacher if I'm not very strict with them. Apparently math is a big struggle for kids at this school, being the subject that everyone is most likely to fail, so I can certainly see why they would have a need for me.
Church: We went to the Shalley’s church even though the Shalley’s were travelling. It’s a very small congregation, and the sermon was given by a man from Alabama with a very strong southern accent! We felt welcomed, and are looking forward to coming back when we return in October.
Other PCVs: There’s actually a total of five PCVs in Tsumeb now including me and Dylan. Allison, a business volunteer is also from our training group (34). Then there’s Kelly, a health volunteer from group 33, and Quinn, an IT volunteer from group 32. Quinn is our future housemate, Kelly and Allison both live in town. Kelly and Quinn have been super welcoming and excited to have us here. Quinn even made us pizza our first night, which we were really craving! He also showed us around downtown and told us the best places to go grocery shopping, etc. It’s nice to have experienced people here to greet us!
Housing: Well… It’s a big house. It’s also a rather old house that belongs to the Ministry of Education, which means it has not been well maintained. There’s wall and ceiling damage, minimal furniture that’s kind of falling apart, clogged drains, etc. That said, there is electricity (although not enough for hot water) and running water, a gas stove, a big yard (all dirt), and generally a lot of space. Lucky for us, our supervisors came there to drop us off and were not suitably impressed, so they ended up putting us in a little bungalow at the cultural center for the week! Before we come in October they plan on cleaning the place a bit and getting us a new bed. In the meantime, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed staying at the cultural center because this is the most alone time we’ve had since arriving in Namibia!
Food: We have eaten so well this week. Pizzas, burgers, fish, lasagna, beef stroganoff… Our supervisors have taken really good care of us, either taking us out to a restaurant to eat or having us over at their houses. I will absolutely be gaining weight if this keeps up!
In Summary: Site visit has gone pretty well for us. We both really jumped in as far as being involved with classes at our schools, exploring Tsumeb, and meeting the other volunteers here. It’ll be weird to go back to training and living with a host family for the next three weeks. I think we’ll be looking forward to coming back here at the end of October and moving into our (hopefully freshly cleaned) house. Teaching will definitely be a challenge and we’ll be working with a lot of disadvantaged kids, which will make it even more of a challenge. But that’s what we’re here for, right?