Tuesday, April 28, 2009

(a) Teacher/School Personnel

I feel like I need to share the good, the bad, and the ugly about my service in Zambia. You can decide what category this fits in. And remember, this is MY OPINION!

I'm currently working at a CHANGES2 workshop in Choma. They are an NGO (non-governmental organization) that works with the MOE (Ministry of Education). We are in the middle of the second installment of training community school teachers in child pedagogy. Basically, we are teaching community school teachers how to teach. CHANGES2 is an amazing NGO and they do great work with the MOE. If it wasn't for CHANGES2, I don't know what the state of the MOE would be. They are great to work with, and they will be missed. (Their funding finishes in August.)

One of the sessions involved with this workshop is about the re-entry policy for pregnant girls. The MOE has a policy that says if a girl gets pregnant during her schooling, after she has the baby, she can come back to finish school. It's a great policy and the MOE is trying, but unfortunately, the girls hardly ever actually go back to school. The MOE even has an entire pamphlet dedicated to informing school teachers, parents, and students about this policy. And that's where I found it.

Now, I should backtrack for a small bit and fill you in on a bit of life in Zambia. It's no big deal for girls to get pregnant when they are teenagers. It happens all the time. My mother in the village is turning 41 years old this year. Her oldest daughter is turning 25 this year. You do the math. That is how it is here, especially in the village. There is a multitude of reasons as to why this is. Girls don't have high self-esteem, they don't have any concept of self-worth, they are submissive, they want to please everyone, they want to be like their friends, etc etc. Another big problem that goes along with teenage pregnancy here is male teachers taking advantage of school girls, most often the grade 9 girls and above. They entice the girls with promises to pay for school fees, new clothes, and so on. The girl may end up pregnant and the male will deny the child. That leaves the girl alone and with only her family to take care of her, if they don't disown her in the process.

I've been thinking a lot about teenage pregnancy ever since I found out that Jacqueline, my own 14 year old sister here in Zambia, is pregnant. She is going to have a baby any day. A child is about to become a mother.

That is why I was really infuriated when I read something in this MOE re-entry pamphlet.

In the back of this pamphlet, is the forms that the school needs to keep for record purposes. On one of the forms, it starts with space for the school information, then goes on to the girl information, then the family information, then the 'male involved' information. It asked for the name, then it asked for the occupation of 'male involved.' (A) TEACHER/SCHOOL PERSONNEL. I couldn't believe that 'teacher' was the first option. It illustrates how often this is occuring. And how acceptable this is in Zambian society.

I have thought a lot about how to combat teenage pregnancy in Zambia. But how do you teach a girl self-worth? How do you teach self-esteem? Especially when they aren't getting those same lessons from home? What about the boys? What about the community as a whole?

I don't know the answers.

There is one thing that I have realized and know to be true. I can't bring development or big change to Zambia. The only thing that I can do is show Zambians other options. I can be a positive influence to the school girls I know and the Zambians that I am friends with in the village but it is up to them to change things.

I'm ready to help with they are ready to change.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An American Easter in Zambia...

This Easter I decided that I wanted to share the American Easter tradition, of an egg hunt and candy from the Easter Bunny, with my Zambian family. I never realized how obnoxious the idea that a bunny would come in the middle of the nite, leave candy in a basket, and then have an Easter egg hunt until I started to share my idea with my sister. She was laughing at me. Just the thought that I was going to hide eggs in the bush was beyond them. And I have to say, I agree with them. Where did the tradition come from? Why do we hide perfectly good hard boiled eggs in the grass and wait for a bunny to come to our house and give us candy? No, really. Why?

Anyway, I decided to go along with the American tradition, since 2/3rds of Peace Corps is cross-culture! Jacqueline, my 14 year old sister, helped me boil the eggs on Good Friday. I had to ask for a bigger pot because I was boiling 45 eggs and my biggest pot could only hold half of that! On Saturday, we dyed the eggs. I thought for sure that I would end up with a very colorfully dyed reed mat but we had no major spills. Each kid got a cup of dye and they got to put the egg in the cup but didn't get to take it out, I figured that was way too much instruction for my limited Chitonga skills. We were successful in dying and now we got to decorate the faces of the eggs. The dye kit also came with fun hats to decorate the eggs, which the kids loved even more! Their egg looked like a person, and they had never even thought that was possible. By Saturday nite, the kids were ready to eat eggs and I had to yell at them several times that we were hunting and eating eggs tomorrow! Not today!

Easter Sunday! The kids were at my house super early, ready to play! I woke up at 6.30 in the morning to Joy, my littlest brother who is a year and a half, calling my name to get up. I woke up, made my coffee, and went to get the family when I was ready. Everyone (all 15 of them!) came over to my house dressed up for this American Easter celebration. I decided since hiding 45 eggs in my front yard would be a diaster, (for the obvious reasons, but especially since my dog has a bad habit of eating eggs) I decided to hid 8 eggs, one for each kid to find. Jacqueline and I hid the eggs while Eric, my oldest brother, locked the kids in my house so no one could peek. They were trying to peek out the windows and get a glimpse of where we may be hiding their treats! When Jacqueline and I were finished a few minutes later, we released the masses! They all came barreling out of my house and were ready to find their breakfast (oh I mean egg!)! It was just like an Easter egg hunt back home. Mass chaos: crying when the little ones couldn't find one, and fighting over an egg found at the same time. It was nice to see that no matter where you are in the world, kids are the same! I helped the last few girls find their eggs and we were ready for breakfast. We boiled and colored enough eggs for everyone to have 3 hard boiled eggs. And I think the first in Easter egg history happened, the kids actually ate the eggs! And loved it!!!!!
It was one of my favorite Easter celebrations that I can remember! It is amazing what 39,000 kwacha's worth of eggs and an Easter dying kit sent from Patty can do in Zambia! Thanks Patty!
From left to right: Nchimunya, Joy, Scotty, Sitemba, Jeanny, and Patricia all coloring their Easter eggs!
Scotty and Sitemba studying their eggs!

Winnie with her egg!

45 dyed Easter eggs!

Jeanny, in her Easter dress, and me in my pajamas!

The Sitemba Family!

Left to right, Back row: Turnwell, 21; Eric, 18; Wesley, 50; Sandra, 24; Winnie, 2

Middle Row: Jacqueline, 14; Nchimunya, 10; Sonia, 12; Sitemba, 7; Scotty, 8; Mary, 42; Joy, 1

Front row: Jeanny, 3; Patricia, 4

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It has to be official...

So I'm back! I haven't blogged since I came back from India (a long LONG time ago) and now I'm a US Peace Corps Volunteer. I'm an education volunteer working in Zambia, it's in Africa. (Google it!) I decided to start blogging again for one reason. People have stopped writing me letters and I still want people back home to know what I'm up to here in Zambia. So I figured this will be a good way, once again, to let people know all about the adventures I'm having here in Africa.

I have been living in Siamabele Village, Siachitema Zone, Southern Province, Zambia for the past year. I live in a mud hut with no electricity and no indoor plumbing or any other American convienance of that kind. The only fancy thing I own is a French Press which I use everyday to make coffee. I'm an education volunteer but what that really means is that I am working to develop the zonal capacity of the school system. I'm not teaching classes everyday, I'm helping the teachers with whatever they need. I'm attached to one zone and have 5 government schools and 2 community schools that I work with. I have one more year to go in my service. And more importantly, I'm loving every minute of it!

I'm going to start blogging as often as I can but in the mean time, feel free to post comments or email any questions that you have about life in Zambia or about Peace Corps. I also have a strict policy about receiving letters. If I receive a letter, I will write a letter back! So keep that in mind people!

Talk to you all again soon!