Teaching at Dawasamu District School
I have been volunteering with GVI for a month and a half now, during which time I have been placed at Dawasamu District School, the primary school 20 minutes from Silana Village, where GVI Fiji are based. On my first day at the school, my first impressions were very good; the children were partaking in a raising of the flag ceremony prior to heading inside for morning assembly. The students appeared to be very organized and well-behaved, and so it proved. We went into the classroom where assembly was taking place, and the children were sitting in rows, organized into their classes. They began the assembly with a song, the passion and harmonizing of which took my breath away – I couldn’t believe that a relatively small group of children (the school has 212 students) could make such an impressive, mature sound.
I was placed in Year 6, which has children aged 10 and 11, but isn’t the top class in the school, as children attend until they are in Year 8, when they are 12 and 13 years old. I work alongside the class teacher, Mr Nemani, assisting with regular lessons, teaching PE, Music and Arts & Crafts (PEMAC), as well as taking one-on-ones in Phonics and Numeracy with struggling pupils and listening to children read books from the school library. One thing that hasn’t waned during my time undertaking these tasks is the students’ ability to surprise me. For example, yesterday, I took an art lesson with my class, bringing in a blank jigsaw puzzle I had bought at home in the UK and brought to Fiji with me. I had the idea of giving a puzzle piece to each student in the class, asking them to draw a section of an image to create a whole picture to which every student in the class had contributed. I asked a pupil in my class, Tevita, to draw a picture of the school on the board. He did a very good job of drawing the school buildings, and I added the grass field below the school and the mountains, which rise up picturesquely behind the buildings. I then handed the jigsaw pieces out to the children and asked each of them to draw a certain section of the picture. I had low expectations of the final jigsaw, when brought together, looking anything like the picture on the board or the school, but when we did it, it did in a very abstract way, which was my first pleasant surprise. My second was that one table of students, when asked to draw the bottom half of the picture, which included the grass field and pupils playing, had actually worked together, fitting the pieces together and drawing a joint picture over the top of those pieces so the picture made sense when brought together. I hadn’t even considered the possibility that they would do this, and I feel that this is a very good example of how the students often find ways of doing things I hadn’t even thought of.
Many of the teachers at Dawasamu live on the school compound and the majority of students come from nearby villages such as Delekado and Driti. This creates a great sense of community and a sense of everyone pulling in the same direction, a feeling reinforced by positive messages and images, which have been painted on the classrooms and pillars along the walkway that stretches along the length of the school. The school also has a weekly motto which is taken on by each class, becoming a theme for that week, as well as their regular school motto, which is “Knowledge is Power”. I also find it very easy to get along with pupils and teachers at the school, as everyone here is so friendly – it is a rare day when we are walking up towards the school if we don’t hear a jolly “Vyandra!” (Good Morning) from the various houses along the way! The sense of community was further strengthened at the end of last term, 3 weeks ago, when weeks of training and practice came to fruition on ‘Cadet Day’, which was a passing out parade featuring military-style drills by pupils and a police marching band, as well as a performance of the Meke, a traditional and intense Fijian dance. The parade was attended by teachers, students and hundreds of friends and relatives, who watched from the well-needed shelter of temporary structures built from bamboo for the occasion. It was a fantastic day and was indicative of the school’s philosophy of everyone being included and working together.
I have really enjoyed my time volunteering at Dawasamu District School and will certainly miss the teachers and children alike when I have to leave to return home.
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