This summer, USAID sponsored a "Camp de Vacances" in Saraya that brought over 100 middle school kids to the school for a) remedial lessons in French and Math, and, b) fun! The Senegalese school system does not often encourage things like creativity or learning through doing (it's all memorization and repetition), so this was an incredible opportunity for the kids. Originally there was supposed to be a small fee for participation (like $2), but they ended up making it free so that everyone could come. They also got t-shirts, which is pretty much the most exciting thing that can happen around these parts. Some kids walked every day from neighboring villages, and more and more showed up each day.
|2012 Camp de Vacances participants!|
|Check out their t-shirts!|
Having worked for three summers at Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp, aka the best place on earth, I came to USAID camp full of ideas for fun games and activities. It was so interesting to see what concepts of game playing were easier or harder for the kids to grasp. Simple tag games are not so simple if you didn't grow up playing them. Each game took a while to get used to, but fun was had nonetheless. For any FLBC-ers reading this, we started with Senegalese Flag. (This was, of course, adapted from American Flag, a tag game where you call out categories of people to run across the field, and if they are touched, they become a star on the flag. Fortunately, the Senegalese flag also has a star. The funniest part was the differences in categories between Senegalese kids and American kids. There is not very much variety in last names, so when "Les Danfakhas" was called out, about half of the kids ran across the field.) We also played Lion, Monkey, Mosquito (a variation of Montana's own Grizzly, Trout, Mosquito, a glorified, full-body tag version of Rock, Paper,Scissors), Blob Tag (which I chose because I thought it would be easier than the first two...not the case), and had some good old-fashioned relays. It was so incredibly fun to see these kids play!
|Pat sounding the djembe to start a game|
We also did health talks on handwashing, which is absolutely neglected most of the time because of the lack of water at the school. Fortunately, for camp, water was brought in, and since I had talked to the principal beforehand about doing the demonstration, he said, "Well I guess we better get some soap!" Something as basic as handwashing is so important in a place that people eat with their hands! I don't care about the left/right hand designations. After the demonstration, Pat said, "I feel like such a Peace Corps volunteer."
On one afternoon of camp, I led a discussion about gender equality in education and gender stereotypes. It ended up being a really good conversation with students and teachers, boys and girls. I started out defining gender, equality, and stereotype and then had them do an activity that showed the disparities in educational attainment by using ten male and ten female volunteers that each represented ten percent of the population (we also had to define percent). For example, “59% of boys in Senegal are literate, and 41% of girls are literate. Is that equality? How about 24% of boys starting secondary school and 18% of girls?” They all seemed to agree that these percentages did not look like equality. Why do these inequalities exist, I asked. Silence. Then one boy timidly raised his hand. I expected a two or three word answer, but out came a flood. “Parents are busy working and they need the girls to stay home and help. They think that if the girls go to school, bad things will happen. Like early pregnancy. They think that girls don’t need to go to school to do their work in the home.” Around him, everyone nodded. It led in perfectly to a discussion about gender stereotypes, where they made hand motions to represent the continuum of agreement to disagreement with statements I read. I explained that there were no right or wrong answers, but we needed to know what we thought in order to start to think about why we might think it. “It is easier to be a man than a woman.” “Women are better parents than men.” “Men are stronger than women.” Good conversation was had, despite the inevitable giggles and battle of the sexes that emerged. Critical thinking isn’t a much-engaged in activity, and I just hope the wheels got turning.
|Got my facilitator hat on.|
|Visual representations of gender inequality in education|
|We had to make a lot of neem cream so we could give out samples, so we enlisted help from the teachers.|