It’s that age old stereotype isn’t it? Those English, they only want to drink tea and discuss the weather. Well, not all the time. Sometimes we talk about croquet, or Pimms, or cucumber sandwiches on the lawn, or how well Tarquin’s pony jumped at gymkhana last weekend, then the weather... and then tea.
Anyhow, I haven’t had a decent brew in nearly 6 months. The tea bags I can get here are about as tasty as dust wrapped up in a bit of kitchen roll, and as milk is scarcer than the amount of sleep I am getting (who wakes at 3.25am on a Sunday...?) I have to make do with the powdered variety. Not good Tarquin, not good... And to round off the typecasting nicely, it is hotter than the gates of Hades outside. So, there you have it, stereotyping at its best.
The UNICEF work is in full flow. I took a week out from Bartica and travelled back up to Georgetown to work on the resource pack with the other SEN specialists and a volunteer from Peace Corp. As we were a little unsure of what we wanted to include in the pack, we spent the first couple of days collecting the information we all separately had. We then decided that it pretty much fell into three specific groups.
· General methodology – to include information on the specific difficulties that children may have in schools; inclusion and differentiation, lesson planning and active learning; behaviour management techniques; questioning and assessment. It would also include information on school wide planning, parental and community support.
· Individual disabilities and special needs – giving further information on the difficulties which children may have; their characteristics and strategies on how to support the children in the classroom.
· Resource directory – with lesson and teaching materials, activities for specific special needs and a regional and national list of contacts and support networks for parents and carers.
Once this had all been collated we spent the rest of the time reading and editing out duplicated sections. Further roles and activities were assigned and we agreed to meet up again at the end of August to work further on it.
The next two weeks were set aside for me to complete the survey of schools. The UNICEF survey is slightly more detailed than the regional one I had sent away about 4 months ago. It includes the ages of the children, which is important for the national database, attendance rates and what, if any, support the children may be getting outside of school.
|Play equipment in a river school.|
|A house in Makouria village.|
|School security - Karrau Creek|
The majority of the schools which we had to travel to, especially the schools in Bartica, I had been to before. But others were brand new to me, sometimes having to travel a bit further afield by boat or 4x4. The trip to St Mary’s took about 40 minutes. It’s a small school on the Essequibo River, tucked out of the way and next to a large quarry nestled in the forest. It is a commute you can’t really tire of really. I did a little film for you, go on, have a look if you have a spare minute. I didn’t have the theme music of Titanic, for obvious reasons, but if you want to imagine Dion harping on and warbling over the top of it then fill your boots.
I also mentioned that we had to travel a bit further by 4x4. Three of the schools on our schedule were deep in the forest and only reachable by taking a slightly hardier vehicle along the tracks cut into the forest by the mining and logging vehicles.
Wineperu School took about 2 hours to get to. The road/track/path (*delete as appropriate) was deeply potholed which meant that the driver either had to go at 5mph, navigating over foot deep ruts and trying not to smash the pick-up to bits, or he was belting it so fast (sideways around corners – that kind of thing) that we simply floated over the holes. The latter however, did not work; it just meant that the jolt was so hard that I kept clouting my head on the roof and my knees were mashed into the seat in front of me. That will teach me for being tall.
|A better section of the road to 72 Mile School|
|Butukari Primary School|
The next day we visited Butukari Primary and 72 Mile School. Do you know why they call it 72 Mile School? It’s because it is 72 miles away from Bartica, cunning huh? We met the driver at 5am and didn’t get back till gone 7pm. I think the total time we were conducting surveys was about 90 minutes, the rest of the time I was being patted on the head and knee-capped by a Toyota pick-up.
On the way back from Butukari, it started to rain. Nothing new there, it rains all the blinkin’ time in the rainforest, the clue is in the name Ian, idiot. But this little smattering decided that it was going to turn our road into a river. Around 6 inches in places and when we were trying to go up-hill, it was coming to meet us, fast. The windscreen steamed up, the driver couldn’t see, it was dark, thunder, lightning and for every meter we went forward, the mud made us slip back two. It was the Guyanese leg of the Paris-Dakar, awesome.