January begins.... (from current volunteer Claire Lintern)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Don’t know about you but I can’t believe it’s a new year already..... So much has changed some good some bad as always. Think most of us reflect back this time of year, and my overall thoughts are that this year has been a true roller coaster of a time for my emotions and experiences, but will admit freely to being happy

7th January

Honestly this country...... Got to school just after 8am to find everything locked up. Teachers and students floated in over the next 30 mins but still no sign of the guy- Mr Scott- who opens everything up. Mrs Jonny came, late as there is a fuel shortage and she had to get public transport and even SHE didn’t have the relevant keys! A student was dispatched to go find the said Scott, and it turned out that he had gone away for the day and knew nothing about schools reopening! As it’s announced on the radio for a week before that’s no real excuse. The students milled about as did the staff until his wife appeared looking very flustered and embarrassed. She’d hunted through the house and found the keys so we could unlock the classrooms. The students were then told to go clean the rooms which are filthy, buy food then go home. So the 1st day of term consisted of dust being thrown through windows and general gossip session. Tell ya, schools are very different here!

8th January

No teaching again today- it seems that the 1st week back consists of the students cleaning their rooms and the compound around the school then entertaining themselves. 

12th January

Yesterday turned into a bit of a long day so am writing this now the next morning! School- well the whole week has gone by with no teaching except the maths teacher to JSS3 as they have a new teacher and he’s keen to bring them up to standard.

17th January

Breezy day so the Salones complaining of cold- me it was perfect! Does really dry your skin out though. School today was fine, the no seat before payment policy is working far better than I thought it would. The kids really don’t like sitting on the floor- why on earth would they?- so nag their parents to pay up. 

21st January

Power finally arrived last night about 6pm so am all charged up again praise the Lord. Met with the road surrounded by ditches on the way to school so now have to walk for about 10 mins UP the road to come back down again..... am not 100% sure WHY they have decided to dig a huge trench along College Road as the only difference I can see is a massive increase in dust and the felling of mango trees. This causes great excitement as the mangoes are just about edible so people scramble for the free pickings as they hit the dust. You see the said mangoes about 15 mins later arranged on a dish atop a lady’s head being sold.....

23rd January

It was announced in school today that tomorrow is a public holiday so no school- fantastic! Think it’s Prophet Mohammed’s birthday but nobody seems quite sure why we have a day off, not that anyone is complaining mind you!

Went into Lumley after school and it really does look and feel different without the street traders. The zinc they had attached to the buildings for protection from the elements has all been ripped down so the place looks neater too. Noticed they are trying to clean up the ditches as well, so the smell at the moment is truly revolting but I guess that will dissipate and improve it even more. Think I’ve said before the will is there to make the right improvements but the financial backing is woefully lacking. 

24th January

No real events to report today or flashes of inspiration. The schools have closed but nothing else seems different even though it’s a public holiday- the workmen are still bashing pieces of wood finishing the house opposite, the shops are open as normal and people are still selling whatever they can fit onto their heads. Mangoes are certainly coming into season now- have tried 1 which tasted of wood so am holding back now until they ripen more and perhaps taste sweeter. 

27th January

Wish I could end it there and say what a wonderful weekend it was. And for me it was grand- but the community has been hit by tragedy. Whilst we were heading to the beach 2 boys aged 11 were drowning there. We saw a woman walk past crying and sobbing and Michael picked up that someone had drowned but no details. The sad facts are there were 3 mates who decided to head down to Lakka without telling anyone. They were playing football on the sand when 2 of them decided they were tired and went swimming. The third stayed out talking to an adult who then asked where his friends were. They had been taken out by the current and drowned. Their bodies came back and 1 has been buried today according to Islam tradition. His house is next door to a bar we use and we actually saw his shroud draped body being driven past on the back of a pickup truck this afternoon. It’s really shaken people here as we ALL go to Lakka and many of us swim there yet these poor lads never made it. My heart goes out especially to the surviving boy who has to live with the knowledge that he was chatting whilst his friends were losing their fight with water. Truly tragic.

28th January

The wind has been really strong today, so the temperature has been kept down. The disadvantage is that you forget how strong the sun is so have a bit of a headache as a result. The Salone’s are complaining of being cold but I am revelling in it! Does increase the amount of moisturiser you need as it’s a dry dusty wind, plus my room is permanently gritty underfoot. Can’t get away from the dust at all- gets in your hair, teeth, clothes the lot. Spend time every day now scrubbing feet and shoes just to keep some semblance of cleanliness. 

29th January

It’s been a sleepy day for all by the look of the staffroom. Out of the wind it’s very hot, in the wind it’s comfortable (for me not for Salone’s who reach for jackets and jumpers). The latest punishment at school for latecomers is that they will weed the compound. The kids look really disheartened at the thought so it may work. 

31st January 

And then the delights of JSS3. The question yesterday- “Miss what do you call Cobras in the UK?” “Cobra” “Yes miss- what do you call them in English?” “Cobras” Yes, but in English?” “COBRAS” this final 1 said with Miss Lintern bashing her head against the blackboard. Tell ya they are a great bunch of kids but oh they so do my head in!!

1st February

Today been bit manic- we sorted the children into their houses. We have 4- yellow, orange, blue and mauve which I am in. The kids had to stand in height order (with 200 kids that takes a bit of time) then Mrs Shereef walked along with a ruler pointing them into houses 1-4. We then had to take down their names and the kids were just MANIC!! As teachers we now have to think up a motto and organise getting t shirts printed. Am keeping my head down and hoping no jobs come my way- fat chance.

Then tonight was PTA. It’s called CTA here for reasons I can’t remember. The meeting of course is all in Krio but can follow 99.9% of it as they all speak so clearly. They want to bring a water pipe into school so we can flush toilets plus dig a pit toilet for the girls- at the moment only the boys have such a facility and its definitely better than over 100 girls using unflushable loos. The smell by 1pm is pretty dire as you can imagine. But the CTA have been asked to try and do it either by volunteering services themselves or by payment. As they had just been told to pay Le60,000 for a ceremonial uniform for each child, Le10,000 for a band for the Thanksgiving march-past and Le 5,000 for something else (can’t recollect what) they gulped a bit! But cleanliness is a major issue and of course cholera raises its ugly head every year so perhaps they will rise to the challenge. But I have to smile as the meeting definitely ran on BMT- was meant to start at 4pm, most parents arrived around 5.... in the end it gets so full in the room parents are forced to sit outside or stand at the open windows. They all seem pretty supportive so we’ll see.