Saturday, 4 January 2014

Chenapou Primary School

Along with my first impressions of my house and the village, I wrote this description of Chenapou Primary School. Try comparing it to your local primary school...

The Nursery (and grade 1-2) Building
Chenapou Primary School is made of wood, like every other building in Chenapou. The floor is wooden, the walls are wooden, the benches and desks are wooden, and so are the blackboards. These blackboards are just about the only resource available to the teachers. There are no whiteboards, no smart boards, no computers, no printers, no projectors, no colouring pens or pencils, no games and only a handful of books for the children to read.

The entire school consists of just two rooms in separate buildings. In one room, the nursery, grade one and grade two are taught. In the other room, grades 3-6 are taught. Each room is about the size of one large classroom in UK terms, but holds many more children. There are not enough desks or benches, so the children have to squeeze three to a bench with no space for their bags or exercise books. Some children in my class have to kneel on the floor to write on benches placed back to front. There is no room to  walk about or play. In the nursery building, there is no electricity at all, whilst the big school has solar panels, able to power the school CD player.

There are no windows in the school, only spaces in the walls to allow light in. But when it is windy the breeze blows right through the classroom, messing up all the papers. When it rains the noise on the roof makes it impossible to continue class, and the roof leaks, forcing everybody to move their desks around to avoid  the water.

In the afternoons, it gets very hot, and the children find it even more difficult to concentrate, especially when the noise from other classes in the same room distracts them. They like going out ot play football, but there is no fence around the school compound, and the school bell is too quiet, so it is hard for them to know when they should come back in again.

Inside the 'big' school. Near  Right is Ben's G5 classroom.
At lunchtime the children are given big platefuls of rice. Some of them are very hungry by this point, the ones who came to school without any breakfast. The rice is cooked in one enormous pan over an open fire. To eat with it we sometimes have a little chicken, beef, or shrimps.

The children in Chenapou speak two languages; Guyanese creole and their traditional Amerindian language, Patamona. However, in school they need to read and write standard English, which they find very difficult as it is like a foreign language to them.

The School Kitchen
There are many difficulties for the pupils of Chenapou Primary; the building, the heat, the hunger, the lack of resources, the language problems... At least, to me, coming from a different world, these seem like problems. But to the children of Chenapou, these things are just part of everyday life. They simply accept the challenges, and make the best of what they have, which is exactly how I must also act to make this year worthwhile.

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