Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Little library update...

So, we are now about 3 weeks into the renovations on the library and everything has been going wonderfully.  After several more negotiations about the pricing of some supplies and furniture, we finally sat down and cemented it all in a contract.  I copied a version that my headmaster gave me from the government offices here and add our own modifications and specific budget.  Then, last Monday, me, one of my teacher counterparts, Mr. Yame, and my headmaster met with the builder and all together signed and stamped the contract.  I was estatic.  Now it is officially onto the waiting game of overseeing the renovations, getting the furniture (which another person is doing) and then I’ll be up to Arusha to buy the books.  The library now has a completed cemented outside and the cement corridor is setting slowly as they wait for it to dry.  The old windows were removed, wire mesh was put on and then metal grill bars to prevent any intrusions.  So, this leaves the finishing of the windows complete with glass panes, the ceiling boards, the grill for the outside door and then painting inside and the outer front.  Should be great!  After that, it is on to setting up the furniture and books.  I’d requested long student study tables to save money and make them more efficient for group work and 3 7-foot wide double-sided shelves.  Should leave space for plenty of books.  So, I’m thinking about another month and hopefully the builder’s work will be done.  Then I’ll get to put a library system in place and head up to Arusha to buy as many books as possible.  I’ve also been working with another NGO (Tanzania Reads) to raise more money for books and they’ve put up a summary and link on their website (tzreads.org/projects/mulbadaw) if you’d like to check it out or donate.  All in all, things are moving along…what a wonderful feeling it is!

Monday, 4 February 2013

School school school

So it’s been three weeks back at school now (only two of actual teaching) and it already feels like forever.  With the library project moving forward finally and now another way to continue raising money to be able to purchase enough textbooks to actually stock the library…things feel good.  It feels like stuff is actually happening…which is a new and rewarding feeling for being in this country.  And so, as for actual teaching, things are going really well so far.  I think that I really do believe what they say about being a teacher…that it takes about a year to feel like you really have a grasp here and are being efficient.  And so, while it is a nice feeling, it’s a bit disconcerting knowing that in less than a year, all of this knowledge and understanding and skill that I’ve developed for succeeding here will be defunct.  I will never use over half the techniques that I’ve honed here ….such as little ways to make sure that the students ACTUALLY come to class when you ask them to change classrooms instead of climbing through windows or pretending to have to use the toilet.  Or ways of encouraging them to ask you questions and come in for tutoring since they are scared to come to the office because they will either be yelled at or sent on an errand.  Or how to best get their attention when five minutes into lecture they are already zoning out or trying to finish that English exercise that they were too lazy to do yesterday(the answer for this one is to take an insanely chalky eraser and whack them on the head with it….not only do they HATE getting their school uniforms dirty and consider cleanliness actually higher than godliness, but their hair is so dark that the white chalk makes a huge, hard to remove print).  So, in summary: sad to leave soon, feeling good about projects, and proud of my accomplishments so far despite how little they may be.

As for the library, the fundi started work this week and is working on putting cement around the outside and pulling out the windows to rotate them.  We had to revise the budget again because most of the windows broke when pulling them out.  Between this and all of the changes that we made when we reviewed the budget last weekend, it accounted for about half of the money that I'd allocated in the grant for books.  Therefore, our book budget as decreased greatly and I'm already trying other methods to collect more money so that we can help bridge that.  There is an American NGO called Tanzania Reads that works with TZ schools and PCV's  helping them collect money to increase Tanzanian youths' access to literature. 

Also, this week my headmaster is traveling to Dar-es-Salaam to help transport a shipment of donated books from a British organization called READ International.  I found out about this organization through other PCV's here.  They donate books to schools all around Tanzania and even implement libraries in the Singida region.  I emailed them a request, explaining our project, and they agreed to help.  Between the time that we started talking and they finally had an opening for us to collect the books that aligned with our schedules, it was February and they promised us 11 boxes of books.  So, this Tuesday, my headmaster is going to Dar to pick up the boxes and ship them on a bus back to our school.  I'm really excited about this, as are all of my teachers, and happy that my headmaster was so willing to go.  I'm not quite ready to travel past Katesh yet and having to escort boxes around Dar sounds horrid.  I'm lucky that my headmaster is so enthusiastic and supportive of this project.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

And so it begins...a library update!!!

Another beautifully great update about my school…and this time is really is about the library, which is really exciting.  Today is Saturday and I went in with my headmaster for an 8am meeting with two of the other teachers (anyone who knows me is probably really impressed right now at the fact that I actually woke up…granted I did get out of bed at 7:48).  We sat down to talk about the budget and chose which builder we were actually going to use since the one who gave us our initial estimates was actually the one building the laboratory at our school right now.  I gave them the finalized versions of the BOQ along with all the adjustments that’d been accumulated over the last months of grant writing such as wire mesh for the windows, cement estimates for the corridor and to plaster the outside in addition to my requests for the furniture.  At first we decided that we would find two builders, one for the furniture and one for the actually renovations of the building.  Then we started reviewing the details of each part necessary, the windows, ceiling, plaster, painting and corridor.  As they reviewed it, they found the same problems that I’d brought up with my headmaster the previous year.  Since the teacher that’d originally started helping me with the project (a self  proclaimed previous builder himself) got frustrated after about 2 revisions, it’d mainly been me and my headmaster reviewing these prices. *  Well, we felt reasonably confident in our final estimations, and some of the stuff that original teacher had even assured me would be included in the quoted cost.  Well today, just at my newest counterparts, Mr. Yame and Mr. Lohay, were looking over the costs, they noticed discrepancies and asked me about them too.  I had to tell them that I’d been assured that they were taken care of, but, needless to say, I got a little worried again.  I’m not a builder, and as my father can attest, will definitely never be one.  These were all new concepts to me…truckfulls of sand and meters of wire.  However, we noted the problems and decided that we’d compare them with the option of the builders that we talked to.  After about a half an hour discussing how much money we had for what and where it was coming from, we finally went out to the classroom/library-to-be. We noticed several more things to be adjusted, especially missing vents, more broken windows and the positioning of the grill outside the windows.  We would need the fundi (builder) to invert all of the metal windows so that once the wire mesh was attached, you’d still be able to open them from the inside. 

My counterparts decided, that since our original fundi had written the initial BOQ, it made since to ask him first if he’d still do it.  So, we did and, luckily, he accepted!  This would save us a lot of time and trouble finding someone else.  He even said that he’d started preparing some of the furniture last year and he’d like to build it if still possible.  So, we accepted and will be sitting down with him this week to revise the changes to the budget, start the project and write up a contact.  SUCH. GREAT. NEWS. :)

*Side note: This is another reason why I feel really blessed with an awesome headmaster.  When I’d asked him about some of the prices, he told me that he’d get an estimate and the next day called me from Babati with the prices that he’d asked about.  Awesome.