Our first lesson was about animals. I hoped that would be easy for them. I spread out pictures of wild animals and labeled that table “zoo” and of domestic animals for “farm.” These were animals they should be familiar with; they see cows, donkeys, goats and sheep in the road every day and maybe their family even has one or another. But the English words are not familiar. I know their school classes are conducted in English from 7th grade on. How are these girls succeeding if they don’t understand? Workenesh says their teachers write on the black board in English and the students copy it and memorize. If they hear English pronounced out loud, it is with an Ethiopian accent. My voice is like nothing they’ve ever heard before. I have to remember to speak slowly, repeat, write it down, and let them copy.
I brought children’s songs on my MP3 player and we sang Farmer in the Dell. Each girl got a picture for one line in the song: “the farmer takes a wife,” “the child takes a nurse,” etc., and when we sang their line, I pulled that girl into the center of the circle. “The cheese stands alone” brought gales of laughter, although neither I nor the girls have no idea what that line means. We sang that song over and over. Tomorrow we’ll do Old MacDonald and see if that one is fun, too.
I teach every thing twice because two girls can only come in the morning while the rest can only come in the afternoon. They are all going to half-day summer school as well as coming to my class at the Synod. They will do anything to succeed in school. They know it’s their chance to have a better life than their mothers and sisters and aunts. How did these fifteen girls get chosen out of the hundreds in Hosanna? Who decides which ones get this chance and what happens to all the others? And how is my being here going to help them at all? I came with the intention of helping them speak English, not to read and write it which they already learn in school. But this will take much more than a couple hours a day for two weeks. I am depressed thinking this whole effort is useless. While Sosi listens to her MP3 player tonight, I cry and wish I’d never come or that I was a much better teacher.