Thursday, June 10, 2010

Windhoek and Orientation

Walalapo! (Good morning in Oshiwambo)

I arrived in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, a week ago and have been going through WorldTeach volunteer teacher orientation and acclimating to Namibian culture. It’s been a busy and exciting week!

The group of 16 volunteers is great. I feel a bit old as two-thirds of the group is college students, but we’ve had a lot of fun hanging out and getting to know everyone. We are packed into a backpacker’s hostel and have had lots of sessions and cultural events throughout the week. We have spent a lot of time learning about Namibian culture, taking language lessons (Oshiwambo is the language spoken in my region), learning about teaching computers, classroom management, lesson planning, and more.

Highlights of the week would definitely include a performance by a Namibian cultural dance group in native attire. The singing was so beautiful and their dancing so unique. We also took a tour of Windhoek and drove through Katatura, the main township in the city. We went out to a traditional Namibian dinner one night where the main dish was cooked goat head. I tried some of the goat head as well as the tongue…and the eye… Something to check off the life goal list but certainly not something I will crave or need to try again! :)

Among the most difficult cultural lessons have been our conversations around the prevalence of HIV in Namibia. Around 20-25% of the population in Namibia is HIV positive. There is still a large stigma attached to getting tested and finding out your status, and thus the virus spreads. It’s pretty upsetting to learn and see the impact this has on the country.

Another especially eye-opening and difficult cultural difference to comprehend is the acceptability of teachers having sex with their learners (students). This is illegal, however, our Field Director tried to prepare us for the reality that teachers in the schools often have sex with underage girls. Sometimes the principal knows about it and still does nothing. Some girls even get pregnant. This was really upsetting to learn about, and I’m hopeful that I do not encounter a situation like this in my school. She said that it’s ok if we try to do something about it if we find out it’s happening, but to not have the expectation that we will be able to change a cultural norm. Hard to believe and not sure how I would react knowing this was happening to my learners.

Tomorrow I leave for my site and I’m so excited! I’m ready to finish with orientation and get to work. The Ministry of Education will provide transportation for all of us to our respective sites – I have an eight hour ride ahead of me so hoping to practice my language skills and do some brainstorming about lesson plans for next week.

I will be in Okahao in the Central North and working at the Shaanika Nashilongo Secondary School. I’m going to be living with another WorldTeach volunteer in her second year. I’m looking forward to meeting her and settling into my new community!

I will send updates after I arrive in Okahao and have my first day of school on Monday. Tangi unene (thank you very much) for reading my update and kala po nawa (stay well)!

Oh, I also now have a cell phone so if you happen to have some credit on Skype, ask me for my number and we can chat! Oddly enough, my phone can access the internet, so emails are always welcome. :) I will also post my address as soon as I know what it is in Okahao.

1 comment:

  1. It's painful to me to hear you describe how the teacher-student relationship can be at times. Children come to school most likely for a safe, learning environment. To have a teacher take advantage of his or her position is irresponsible and wrong.

    I'll be praying for your learners and the environment in which you teach.

    Love you!