I had my second REDES (Raparigas em Desenvolvimento, Educaco e Saude) - pronounced red-ish - meeting last weekend. It´s my girls group, Girls in Development, Education and Health. Peace Corps volunteers started up the program in Mozambique a few years ago and now it is in almost every province. I had them do an activity where they had to put facts about HIV/AIDS under either true or false on the board. The results were pretty surprising. They put under true that the only people who have HIV/AIDS are immoral people, like prostitutes. They put under true that it is better to not know if you have HIV/AIDS by getting tested. They didn´t realize that the percent of Mozambicans with HIV/AIDS was so high either. I hope to do a lot of work with them about HIV/AIDS facts and just general knowledge. After that, I gave them each a small notebook that I bought for them to journal in. I don´t think they understand the concept of a journal so I brought a couple of my own along so they could see. I asked them "Do you know who Anne Frank is?" Blank stares. "Do you know about the Holocaust?" Blank stares. Oh man, oh man. The history department has some explainin´to do. These kids live in Africa. How can they not know about genocide? Maybe they´ll let me teach history next year too, once I have a much better grasp on portuguese. So the girls have to bring their journal with them every week and I told them that if they want me to read it, I´ll read it. And then as a final activity about trusting each other, I had them pair up and I blindfolded one girl in each pair, had them hold hands and took them on a walk around the school grounds. Of course the school was super busy and all the students were there so I got a lot of "Epa! Teacha, what is this?"
This next Saturday, my group is going to listen to Independent Women by Destiny´s Child. And I translated it into portuguese for them. Should be interesting. Kids love music and dance here so I think it´ll be a good aid. I am looking into the local orphanage too to see if I can get the girls involved in some kind of community service.
I chose two girls from my group of about 15 to go to the national conference in Chimoio next month. We are going for a week and during the conference, the girls get to do activities about AIDS, female empowerment and meeting other girls from around Mozambique. Should be fun and I´m looking forward to it. These girls have never been on an airplane, much less been out of this province so I am thrilled to take them. One of the girls was so excited that she ran home after I told her I had decided to take her.
My students are still frustrating me because even after the test is finished and handed back to them, they change their answers and come to me, saying that I graded their tests wrong. Well, when you rewrite the answer in a different color pen or all in caps when the rest of the test is in lowercase, I am about as likely to give them credit as I am to join the Ringling Brothers. I even had some students change their answer from right to wrong. Come on. I even told my classes "if you are going to lie, at least do it well." And they were like "Yes, teacha." "NO, the point is you don´t WANT to lie!" So I had to start making the threat at the beginning of each class period, "If I find that you have altered your test in any way after I hand them back, you will get a zero. And I WILL know." I had no one come up to me after that.
We do have some rock stars in our classes though. The kids who know the answer to everything and are curious about other phrases in English. They are our favorites and make us feel like we are doing something right. Nia and I are going to pick a student from each of our classes who participates a lot in class and gets good grades and we are going to invite them to our house as a group for a meal. It´s incentive to do well and it should be fun.