(That is Hello Friends in the Shona language)
Now that we’ve filmed almost 4 shows (Yeah, Braxton got his zebra last night!) we’ve been able to get out into the communal lands more. Today we visited a school, grade 0 through 8… yes, they call their kinder and pre-kinders, grade 0.
The boys spent time in a classroom of kids their ages, it was amazing watching them mouth the answers to a lesson in place value taught in English. The school children were perfectly mannered, always raised their hands and stood replied answers any time they were called upon. Also every room we walked into the kids automatically stood for us as they do all adults – such respect for adults in this culture.
The students have no paper, pencils or books. All the lessons are taught on the chalkboard. We watched as many of them came to write answers on the board, similar to an episode of “Little House on the Prairie.” Their handwriting was absolutely perfect and each time someone put something up, the teacher would give them the signal to cheer… something like “Hey, hey, you’re a star… with a rhythmic clapping set.” After the lessons, the boys gave them all toys to take home. It is their custom when receiving a gift to open both hands and sort of nod a thanks to the giver. We explained that the toys came from Braxton and Kazden’s classmates and friends. They were very happy to get them.
Later, the headmaster called all the students to the grass field and they sang and drummed for us. In their own language they were chanting “Jesus is My Rock.” And no, this wasn’t a Christian school. It was beautiful and very moving, all those precious faces. They even let the boys take a turn drumming.
They used to be required to wear uniforms in order to attend school but because of the current economic conditions, the government has made the exception knowing it is more important for all children to be educated. More than half were bare footed, and as they walked over the sharp rock paths throughout the school grounds, Braxton and Kazden actually winced in empathy.
We were fortunate to make it to the school on their last day before Easter Break. Before each break the students are given academic recognition. The top 10 kids from each grade are brought up in front of the student body and cheered for. Several parents were there also and as their children were recognized, they leapt from the crowd of spectators and lifted their sons/daughters high in the air. Some even brought gifts and gave them to their kids in front of everyone. One little 2nd grader, the top student in his class, received a new blanket, packet of cookies, large bag of some kind of chips and a large bottle of orange Fanta. The boy was nearly buried in stuff – but he was beaming. Another girl, in 4th grade, was given a notepad and some fabric – most of their clothes are hand made. Braxton and Kazden were invited to center stage (well, a cleared patch of grass) each time a class was announced and gave each child a packet of SweetTarts. The headmaster was so excited for them to have the extra treat, he wants us to come back for every awards ceremony.
At the end of the assembly, the boys presented several more bags of toys to the teachers to use in their classrooms for play and learning. The staff felt sure that these interesting things from the states would enhance the learning of many students as they have no other supplies or manipulatives.
As we left the school grounds we stopped to watch a soccer game in session, the kids were so fast and of course, playing in bare feet. Their typical soccer ball is plastic grocery sacks tied tightly together to form a sort of ball. The strangest thing was watching how they played around the cattle that were grazing on the playing field.
The rest of the day we stopped off at several village homes. Most of them are round “hut-style” with a thatch roof. Some families have several huts, one for cooking, one for kids and one for adults. Several family members and extended family may live on the property. Most homes have large gardens and grow corn, millet and sorghum along with vegetables. Some have chicken, goats and donkeys. A few may be lucky enough to have a few cows. I had to get out and stand in the millet and sorghum fields as I was so excited to see the stuff I cook with in gluten-free recipes up close. It’s pretty, the millet looks like our cat-tails and the sorghum looks like corn blossoms.
Arriving at the homes, one minute it would look like no one was around in the huts but as soon as we’d hop out of our jeep, several adults and kids would appear. The boys really enjoyed showering the kids with toys and seeing close up how they lived. They also enjoyed handing out candy to the adults as they love any kind of “sweets.”
Everyone loves to have their picture taken as well. If I snapped one photo, soon their would be a line of people, particularly women, to have me take their photo. They always had to see it on the screen and would whup and holler and laugh at each other in good nature. What I would have given to have a Polaroid with me.
I got a little excited with the idea of visiting the “shopping mall”… oh, wait until you see what they consider a mall – will post pics on Facebook. Several square little cement buildings, maybe 10’ x 15’ all selling virtually the same thing. Staples, such as cooking oil, sugar, flour, cornmeal, juice concentrate and a little produce took up most of the shelves. There were a few clothes, lots of flip flops (costing $8-$10 US dollars – the kind Old Navy puts on sale for $1) and one store even had super glue. Still quite unbelievable the prices here. One large bottle of soda costs about $2.50, mystery meat is around $3.00 per pound, flour, sugar and oil are more expensive than in America. In a country where the average wage is only a few dollars a day, it is hard to imagine how even basic items are afforded.
We finished off our adventure of the day chewing on a sugar cane like stick that the trackers cut down along the side of the road. Braxton wasn’t crazy about it but Kazden is probably still chewing on his. Presently he is out hunting wildabeast with Daddy. My battery is about dead, if you are still reading this… thanks (tatenda) for hanging in there!
Musare Mushe (Goodbye),
Tiffany & boys