The ideas and thoughts expressed within this blog are not the views or opinions of WorldTeach nor the Namibia Ministry of Education, but rather my personal views.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More Goodwill Ambassadors

In order to have true impact, the work of the Khorixas Computer-Based Learning Centre cannot be the work of the computer software alone. Maths and Sciences were neglected for far too long in certain communities to have the gap closed with a few hours in front of a computer. Besides, 90% of our learners in Khorixas had never touched a computer prior to their time in the Centre. Special attention needs to be given to increasing their basic familiarities with computer technology, which will slow down the rate at which the academic lessons will be understood.

One-on-one time with learners, additional off-line activities for home and self-study, classroom aids (posters, maps), parent involvement, assistance with the English language, heightened and specialized teacher training, are all among the necessary tools for improving the potential of youth in Khorixas to truly excel.

During their trip to Namibia, my mother and Denise spent time in the Centre. Denise only had a day to visit, but her day was busy. She noticed needs right away and Ms. Social Worker went to work, helping with specific math challenges, assisting learners with the proper use of the computer hardware, and acknowledging success when it occured (which is extremely important).

My mother will be in the Centre with me for about two and a half weeks. During her time, she has already helped with massive amounts of data entry that will be absolutely essential to analyzing learner progress and facilitating dialogue with teachers, learners, and parents. She has also worked with learners one-on-one, both at the computer and in a more personal setting, to help them navigate through lessons and to help facilitate their basic understanding of addition, subtraction, and multiplication. My mother's work has been even more effective because of the massive donations she brought with her to Namibia. Pushing the limits of airline luggage allowances and frequent flyer privileges, Mrs. Webb packed away tons of learning goodies for the Centre, Khorixas schools, and learners. In her suitcase were dozens of classroom posters, pens/pencils/crayons, math flashcards, reading books, index cards, audio headsets and splitters (for group work), and much, much more.

Every bit helps. If you are interested in donating to the Mathematics and Sciences learning project in Namibia, please let me know.

Big Rig Hike

As the saying goes, “When in (Namibia), do as the (Namibians.)” So Do we Did. In order to get from Windhoek back home to Khorixas last Sunday, my mother and I were snuggly packed away in the 18-wheeler big-rig pictured in the photo to the right. OK, let me ‘splain.

I’ve shared before that there is not a government-sponsored public transportation system throughout the country. In Windhoek and a few large(relatively-speaking) towns, there are marked taxis and even small kombis (mini-buses) that help people move about. Elsewhere in the country, getting around is pretty dependent on private auto and (hitch)hiking.

“Hikes” are somewhat standardized and to an extent, unofficially regulated.
  • There is a fairly standard hike fee from one town to another.

  • Drivers typically wait until their vehicle is full of passengers before starting to a particular destination.

  • “Hike Points” are known to locals and at some places (Otjiwarango, for one), there are designated areas within the Hike Point with town-signs for people to wait for hikes going their way.

  • Early morning and early afternoon hikes are most available.

There is no standard look or feel to the vehicle or driver offering the ride, though. Each hike can be an adventure.

In my hiking-past, I’ve been in the back of a pick-up truck on a mattress with four other people. I’ve been in the back of a small four-door sedan with broken doors, four backseat passengers (in a space designed to comfortably seat only three) and two front-seat passengers (one pressed uncomfortably close to the gear/stick-shift), plus the driver. I’ve now also been in an 18-wheeler.

We were a little pressed for a hike because we began the journey later in the morning than expected. Many of the cars had already collected passengers and left the hike point by the time we arrived. We were left to get in an available vehicle or consider remaining in Windhoek another night and trying again earlier the next morning. We chose to get in the available vehicle, which happened to be a big-rig.

There were four passengers in the small double cab in the front. It wasn’t very comfortable, nor was the ride very short because we stayed (luckily) within the speed limits set for our vehicle category (80-90km/hr).

We were happy to end the journey, but we definitely now have stories for the interested masses. I’ll let mom tell enquirers about the gun…..

Itinerary: Southern Africa Vacation (June 2009)

Day 1: Mom and Denise fly-in to Windhoek; I (hitch)hike to Windhoek; Airport shuttles to hotel; Visit Ministry of Education (Stipend issues); Dinner at steakhouse; Overnight in Windhoek (hot shower for me !!!!!!)

Day 2: Tour of Windhoek; Shopping in City Centre; Bus to Livingstone, Zambia (21-hours!)

Day 3: Arrive in Livingstone, Zambia (watch baboons jack an elderly woman for her fresh bread)

Day 4: Visit Livingstone Museum; Shopping (Denise crowned haggle-queen!); Sunset Dinner Cruise along the Zambezi River; Guest star on Zambezi Radio (107.5)

Day 5: Visit Victoria Falls (put foot on Zimbabwe side; mom and Denise pose by the bungee-jumping sign on No-Man’s Land bridge); Shopping; Elephant-Back Safari in Mosi-Oa Tunya National Park (Zambia)
Day 6: Ferry to Botswana; Boat and Land Safaris in Chobe National Park (battle unforeseen rains and chills) (my last hot shower!!!!!)
Day 7: Buy blanket (bus was COLD!) and food (trip was long with questionable food at reststops); Last-minute haggling with street vendors in Livingstone, Zambia; Bus to Windhoek (21-hrs)
Day 8: Morning arrival in Windhoek; Shower at Hostel; Rent Car (a 4x4 this time!); Depart for Khorixas (6 hours, with stopover in Okahandja – Denise, the Haggle-Queen, was losing her royal touch with vendors); Arrive in Khorixas; Dinner at Restcamp
Day 9: Visit schools and Regional Ministry of Education office in Khorixas; Mini-tour of Khorixas (basically, stand in the centre of town and point); Work with learners in Computer Centre; Dinner at Lodge
Day 10: Depart Khorixas; Visit Petrified Forest (see Welwitschia plants); Arrive in Windhoek (consider movie and club/concert, but opt for pajamas and bed)
Day 11: Return rental car; Take Denise to Hosea Kutako International Airport; Mom and I (hitch)hike back to Khorixas (in an 18-wheeler big rig! See BigRig Hike post)
Highlights: Driving on the gravel roads (Mom-she was silently having a little panic attack); Speaking with the street vendors, hearing their stories (Denise); Hot showers (Me); Sunset on the Zambezi (unanimous). There were so many.
Questionables: Petrified Forest
Most Annoying: Endless Foot and Mouth Disease Control Spots
Most Common Animal Sightings on Safari: Hippos (literally saw “tons” of ‘em), Impalas
Most Memorable Animal Sightings on Safari: Lionesses and Lion Cubs; Partially-eaten Buffalo near Lionesses
Most Common Animal Sightings on the Road: Warthog and Guinea Fowl (although we did hit a cow on the bus, according to mum)
Most Fun: Victoria Falls (it was like taking a big swim; we got super-drenched)

The planning of this adventure/vacation was a bit stressful, but it was well worth it all. I enjoyed the company, the beautiful spirits always within and amongst us, learning new facts about the world, and seeing new places. Next stop…….