By Lynsey Palmer.
I get carsick. Like most people, I suffered from this ailment as a child. Unlike most people, I never outgrew it. A bumpy road brings on queasiness. I prepared for this by bringing enough Dramamine to tranquilize a small wildebeest. I mentally prepared myself for Africa’s long and dusty car journeys. What I did not prepare for was bouncing around in the back in the off-road vehicles.
After arriving in the provincial town Monze by bus, which my fellow researcher Jack Bird wrote about in his blog, we were collected by a driver and then veered off into the bush. With six people in the back of a people carrier accompanied by our absurd mountains of suitcases, we bounced into Chikuni, our home for the next five weeks. I felt dreadful.
The next day we travelled to a rural radio school on a road that could have been on the moon as it had so many small craters. The school, called Hakalinda, consisted of one square concrete block school room and two trees. Both the block room and the two trees make up the three classrooms for grades two, four and six. The two teaching mentors greeted us when we arrived. Everyone was a dust-covered, windblown and sore, while I was queasy and grumpy.
I perked up instantly when we watched the Taonga Market radio programming in action. Right after we arrived the grade four programming begun. The teacher gathered all the students who sat on mud bricks and turned up the radio. The Taonga radio teacher blared through the blue Prime Radio that sat on the single table in the corner. I watched as the students listened intently to the instructions of the female radio teacher assisted by the male teacher in the classroom. I was pleasantly bemused as they fought the urge to ogle at these new “mzungu” (white people) arrivals.
After the Taonga lesson finished, the teacher asked me to grade some of the student’s work. Immediately I was swarmed by the eager learners confronting me with math problems that I had not seen since the fourth grade. I graded them unexpectedly quickly, remembering that “greater than” and “less than” problems were a specialty of mine.
As we parted, I reflected on my own schooling experience in a world where classrooms had walls, desks, posters, books, and plenty of materials. These students have incredible resolve and motivation for their education, as well as their future, despite having so few resources to get there.
I climbed back into the truck with trepidation on the hour’s drive back to Chikuni, looking forward to our future visits to these amazing school.