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Botswana 2011 Blog
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by Richard Kassissieh
By Kate and Ella
Comparing Maru a Pula to Catlin in the past few days has given me some new insights into just how different the culture is between the two schools. Compared to Catlin's quietly-friendly students, MaP kids are more outgoing than you could imagine. They also (no offense Catlin kids), just seem genuinely happier. Maybe it's because their school day only lasts until 1:00pm and they're less wrapped up in their school work, maybe because they aren't distracted by as many things in the outside world, but these kids seem to have an unexplainable joy for everything they do. One of the core elements of the school's curriculum is community service. Unlike the individual based, 15 hour service requirement at Catlin, service at MaP is a community activity that is built into the curriculum and meant to create long lasting relationships. 15 hours per year is almost nothing. That's three hours a day for one school week to complete the requirement. Despite that, a lot of students struggle to find a meaningful service program. Of course, there are many students that devote much of their school year to service, building a long term relationship with the people they're serving. But at Maru a Pula, that's less of a choice; service is not just a requirement, but truly ingrained in the culture of the school. For each term at MaP (there are four terms with month-long breaks inbetween), students sign up for a service activity either on campus or off campus. The on campus actvities include cleaning the science labs or maintaining the grounds, but some of the more popular activities are off campus, like working with disadvantaged kids in the local community. When students do service work, they don't go on their own. Instead, a small bus takes a group of students to and from the organization. To me, this makes the process and logistics of service work seem much more manageable and inviting. Also unlike Catlin, the value of service as an extracurricular activity ranks equal to that of sports and clubs. In the afternoon, each student participates in a club, sport, or service. And while some students might commit all five school days to service, and some only one or two, the attitude towards community service makes it seem like less of a chore or even duty, and more of a value that is ingrained in each of the students.
I stayed at MaP today to attend some classes. In the morning i found my way to English to give them a perspective on America from an American student. They were reading the book Angela's Ashes. It's about an Irish family that immigrates to America. They asked me a lot of questions about how America was compared to the advertised perception. A lot of people think America is big on partying and it's hot and sunny everywhere. We compared and constrasted the schools and i noticed that people here are a lot more friendly and that there aren't as many cliques. It's a lot easier to make friends here. Some of the similarities were the way the school was layed out-very spead out, the way the school day was structured, and how much community service was involved in the curriculum. I also attended an art class. Instead of being inside, they were doing an art project outside in nature. Back in an orchard garden, they were to make art with only things from nature that symoblized "the cycle of life" theme they had chosen. After that i hung out in the library until lunch. A guy asked me if i was good at math, i told him i might be able to help until he told me he was in calculus. We ended up working on English language and recognizing style and language of the writing. I helped out in the library until the end of the day when lunch began. Overall, classes are pretty similar except for the close relationship Catlin students have with their teachers by calling them by their first names. It's very interesting to observe the similarties and differences of the 2 cultures, specifically the schools.
Africa’s Color Wheel
We’ve learned many things so far on this trip, and many previous misconceptions have been shattered. One of which, is the distinction between “white,” “black” or “colored.” Our friend Ludo was telling us about the differences between them and how they are perceived. In the states, most people think of “black” and “colored” as the same thing, however, we were informed otherwise. In Africa, “colored” is someone of mixed race, with a white parent and a black parent. We were also informed that being colored, or of a mixed race, was something that people took quite a lot of pride in, for example people take pride in dating a colored person. This distinction between the three is shown in social workings as well. People segregate themselves in places such as bars. We were told that a black person would rarely enter a colored bar, and vice versa.
Distinctions such as these are ones that are often overlooked or missed in the states. For example, the phrase “colored” is one that is rarely used, and sometimes seen as offensive; however, here it’s something one would take pride in. We’ve even seen an example of this within our own group. When Chelsea was getting her hair braided, a few MAP girls came up to her and commented on how much they liked her hair, they followed this comment by asking if she was “colored,” and seemed to link this with her shnazy hair.
The history of racism and ethnicity here varies from in the US, and takes its own form, but still holds similar grounds.
By Ellie and Chelsea
P.S. Love you parentals.
By Kate and Jade
Today, we went to a smaller village outside of Gaborone called Mochudi. We had a free day and decided to try and get out of the city. Once we ventured out of the city, clear differences developed. We drove for about 40 minutes on a main highway before turning to a much smaller road that lead us to Mochudi. Our destination was a museum called Phuthadikabo. We got pretty lost trying to find a museum and ended up touring and enjoying the village life. The main street was full of shops and a lot of people trying to make a living selling candy and other things from tables and tents. More people were walking around the main street then we’ve observed in Gabs. It felt more rural, and we could definitely tell the move from a busy city life to a more town like place. Also, as we drove around residential areas, we saw much less cars than we did in Gaborone. Many of the houses didn’t have a car in their driveway, or around their compound.
While we walked around the main street, we got a lot more stares than we did in the city. In Gaborone, people are more used to tourists and the expatriot population than people in Mochudi. While in Gabs and at MaP, we were constantly asked questions about where we were from, and where we were headed but only one person was questioned on this visit.
Also, while we could have been frustrated because of how lost we were (a woman ended up getting in one of our vans to guide us) I thought everyone really enjoyed the views we got of the town. It got us really excited for the village visits we’ll be doing in the next week.
Yesterday the whole group had a pizza dinner (DELICIOUS) with all the MaP/Catlin Grads. We had a fun time reuniting with Kush, MK and Mmaserame and also had an interesting discussion together. Looking to next year when the next Map student, Tapiwa, will come to Catlin, we asked them what they wished that the Catlin community knew about them before they arrived. Their answers were interesting and also shocking to many of us. The main theme was that they wished people would have at least taken the time to Google Botswana, considering that we have a longstanding relationship with the MaP school and get a student from them every year. MK, Mmaserame, and Kush told us they had been asked questions such as, “Are those your first pair of shoes? Did you buy them at the airport?,” “Do you ride elephants to school?” and “Was it dangerous to walk to school because of the animals?” (walk, not drive, because of course their aren’t cars in Botswana). Our whole group was surprised that the usually so educated Catlin community had so little knowledge of Botswana. Being asked these questions made MK, Mmaserame and Kush feel offended that no one took enough interest in them to even Google Botswana, a peaceful, prosperous, country they are all proud to come from. Jahncie and I were shocked by the ignorance of the community. It reinforces an already somewhat recognized phenomenon: the Catlin bubble. Sometimes the Catlin community can be so wrapped up in itself that it assimilates or ignores new members of the community until they turn into typical Catlin students, rather than celebrating their differences and trying to learn as much as we can. Moving forward, we have decided to have an assembly about Botswana early in the year to give the new student a chance to tell us what she wants us to know about herself and to educate the community as a whole about Botswana and MaP, a school we have a relationship with and should know more about. We look forward to many more years with the MaP school, and hope to do more in the future to make the MaP students feel welcome.
Ella and Jahncizzle
Natalie & Mira
Today we attended 4 classes at MaP, shadowing several students. It was very interesting to go: we’ve both gone to Catlin since we were young, so we haven’t been exposed to different school set-ups. These are our observations about the differences and similarities between CG and Maru-a-Pula that we noticed while in class.
Mira: I went to two English classes, one analyzing poetry and one analyzing a play. Then I went to part of an art class & part of a drama class, and then to a geography class.
Natalie: I went to creative writing, literature, visual art, and geography.
M: The biggest difference I noticed was that the classes were lecture based: the teachers talked much more than the students.
N: I definitely agree. Classes at Catlin are very discussion oriented. However, at MaP, the teachers generally lecture, and students ask occassional questions.
M: It was most apparent in the English class. At home we analyze texts by having decentered/centered discourse. Here, in discussing both the play and poem, the teacher would explain the meaning to the students. Sometimes the students would say their ideas.
N: I also found the lack of student based discussion to be very noticable in English class. At Catlin, I’m so accustomed to sharing my ideas with peers, that I was surprised that most of the students kept quiet, especially because they were older than us.
M: I agree. On a more organizational note, it was interesting to me that the classes here aren’t as integrated as ours, subject-wise. For example, we take geography (which in this case was just called geography, but was really geology) as part of our science courses, but here it’s a separate class. I spent a while trying to figure out if this would help me focus more on one subject, or if learning a subject in context of its related topics enriches my learning.
N: I also contemplated whether less integration would benefit my learning. Back home, we tend to learn a diverse mixture of material in each class, which I enjoy, because it allows me to draw parallels between the topics. Math, however, is very integrated at Maru-a-Pula. Instead of taking algebra, geometry, and calculus classes, the MaP students take a general “maths” course.
M&N: We both noticed that there are advantedges and disadvantedgesnes to both the teaching styles and the class set up. It would be interesting to see how CG students would react to MaP classes and vice-versa. Please send us candy!
We first heard this statement as a group during an evening with Dr. Avalos, a leading HIV/AIDS doctor in Botswana. After eating dinner outisde in Botwana’s evening chill, we sat around a fire inside Maru-a-Pula principal Mr. Taylor’s home. Dr. Avalos described the many facets of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Botswana. Although Botswana has many resources, and a successful program that provides antiretroviral medication to all in need, Dr. Avalos explained that a lack of health care professionals plagues Botswana more than just about anything. Because of Botswana’s stability and economic success, charities and the like want to invest money here, but the country lacks the numbers to execute new program. For example, circumcision has been shown to decrease the chance of infection by 60% and could be a promising way to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS. Also, some tribes in Botswana already practice circumcision, however not always safely. Doctors want to encourage circumcision but only if its safe with a health professional. Ideally, doctors would be able to go into the field to ensure the safety of circumcision procedures. As Dr. Avalos explained, this simply isn’t possible because doctors are too preooccupied with the clinics full of patients to take the time off to complete this task. As a result, Botswana cannot harness this new research due to a lack of health care professionals.
I did a lot with kids today. In the morning, we went to the Baylor Centre and led their morning play group. I found out that all the kids were all HIV positive, but I don’t think I would have ever known that unless I asked or somebody told me. They all act so normal like children anywhere around the world. I just thought they may have been sick from other things. Besides the language barrier, I communicated with them very well. I had an intense one-on-one experience with a 15 year old boy. Though he looked much younger and didn't speak much, but we communicated through math. I gave him a couple of problems to see what math level he was at, then I taught him some basic algebra and he caught on fast. He understood English well, but didn’t speak much of it, and we still managed to teach and learn from each other. I taught him algebraic equations with 1 and 2 variables, systems of equations, and multiplying and dividing by fractions. He also taught me some math having to do with rate, time, and product using specific equations. Not many of the kids focused on math, but I could tell he really enjoyed it and i'm glad i got to have that experience of teaching him.
Later in the day when we went to the Princess Marina Hospital and I helped out in the pediatric surgical ward. Qiddist, Chelsea, another volunteer and I held and took care of 2 abandoned babies. The older one was a month old and named Vincent. He was abandoned in the hospital by his mother. He was a very fussy baby, and liked to be held my many people. It showed that he didn’t have much stability in his life, and there were many people who would pass by to say hello or to feed and change him, but not really a constant. The younger boy didn’t have a name yet. He was found this past Sunday abandoned on the side of the road. We just held them and loved them. They were extremely cute and it was heartbreaking to hear their stories, but it reinforces that every child needs parents and people to love them. Just holding them and rocking the littlest one to sleep for a couple of hours felt like I really made a difference in his life. With the hospital being so short in staff, volunteering really goes a long way there. Before we left, they let us name him. We talked with a lady who also visits them and gave him the name Lesedi, which means light/sunshine/brightness so that he may bring light into people’s lives.
What We Did Today!