Some of my experiences so far....

By 5 years ago
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Read all about it……
Two weeks into our volunteer project in Mombasa, I think I have the routine down. Wake up at 6:30 from the heat. Fall asleep for another hour. Run through a cold shower and a mango-slice breakfast, forget to sign out on the board and having to come back, and try to get to school on time – always a gamble, our cheap bikes against the potholes and coral.

Volunteer Nadia with students from Standard 3 and 4
With the school in holiday session, the lessons are optional and the classes become smaller. We read one-on-one with the kids who are struggling with literacy; my first of the day, Steven, has finally remembered what “perhaps” means, and I feel  I am making progress. Brian flies through a level-8 book and summarizes it in detail. “Want to try a level-9 book tomorrow?” I ask. He smiles and nods, which makes him a more enthusiastic student than I ever was.

Volunteer Nadia with Student Brian
 
The rest of the day I have an extra-curricular class – teaching the kids how to write news articles for their own school paper. It’s my second time on my own with the class, fully in charge of the course, and I’m stumping myself trying to come up with explanations for old editing terms that I’ve never thought twice about before. It’s not a lede, it’s… “an introduction, yeah? But one that makes people want to keep reading the story?” And it’s not a graf, it’s “a separate section… that talks about the next idea… but… is still connected to the topic. Um. Yeah?”

Students Wendy and Fatima doing research….
“What do you like to read about when you pick up a paper?” I ask the group. “What do you think is important?” There’s Wendy, a bold girl with a big smile; Michael, a quiet boy in the back of the classroom; Fatimah, a shy but sweet girl, an intelligent and studious girl who wants to be a journalist one day.
The answers start off quietly. “Music.” “Food.” “Culture.” “The school.” I write the categories on the blackboard with coloured chalk, trying to interrupt without interrupting. “Can we narrow it down a bit?” “Okay, but what kind of food?” “Remember that you have to write about something that actually happened.”
With some more questions, they start to elabourate on their interests. Their voices climb. “Nicki Minaj!” “Careers!” “I will interview the people in the village to find out about the man who was killed last week!” (Yes, this was said.) I tell them their challenge for their articles – no matter what they write about, they have to interview someone. Uncertain looks all around. “Reporters can’t be shy,” I say. We need a name for the paper, but the kids are much more interested in getting that internet research started first.
Busy newsroom…
Covered in pink and blue chalk dust, and sweating too much to wipe it off, I ask them to start writing their assignments down. They shuffle through scraps of paper and grind their drying pens to get the ink running again. It’s a familiar sight; hunched over their desks, scribbling questions and ideas onto too-small notepads, and crowding around a mini laptop to start their research, they don’t realise it yet, but they already resemble a newsroom.

By Volunteer  Nadia Prupis