The Perivoli Okonjima Country School One Year Has Passed . . .
by Yolandi Roos
Well, here we are, one year on and we have made it! It has truly been an extraordinary and rewarding year in all respects. To give the children of Okonjima employees the opportunity to have access to a wonderful education system and see how they have grown and learned so much in this time, is heart-warming.
We cannot thank the Perivoli Trust (Mr James Alexandroff) and Okonjima enough for the opportunity. Without them it would not have been possible to reach this landmark - to make a significant difference within our environment for these children.
'Education for the next generation' is our motto, forming the youth as future leaders and conservationists of our wonderful country.
The beginning of the year was a real learning curve and dealing with language barriers was our biggest challenge. We focused much more on class work than excursions and sport. The first few months was a crucial time for the kids in order to narrow the gap between getting to grips with English and understanding their work.
For some, English is their 3rd or 5th language and when they joined Perivoli at the beginning of the year the majority of the children could only speak their mother tongue; for this reason our emphasis was on them learning basic, spoken English.
By the 3rd term, after a long school holiday, the kids returned with great enthusiasm and vigour to tackle the second half of the year. By this time, they had truly blossomed, mastered and understood basic English to the extent that the dialogue between teacher and pupil became a wonderful experience. Of course that brought with it lots of "why must I do it" and "I don't want to ..", but we continued encouraging and challenging them to keep on trying.
We were introduced to a wonderful lady, Renee Lighton, who spent over a week with our teachers Emmy, Hilda and myself, introducing a fresh and innovative style - a blend of classical and Montesori programmes. This has given the three of us some new ideas and approaches which will surely benefit our children.
Our first outing was a visit to AfriCat's Carnivore Care Centre.
We took the Pre-primary and Grade 1 classes on an AfriCat feed-run.
The kids had such fun. Each child chose a cat for which they would be ambassador - how proud they now are to represent their chosen cat.
The children often have class discussions about their excursion to AfriCat: meeting the 'Big Cat Dentist' during an annual dentistry check for all predators in the care of AfriCat, proved to be a mix of 'wow' and 'cringe' reactions! The kids were offered a dental check by the veterinary dentist but they very quickly declined - I wonder why? It looked very much like a scene from a Hitchcock movie!
They even got to see Matata, our old, beautiful lion, whilst he was on the consultation table when his teeth were being worked on! The kids could not believe his size and being able to touch a lion was an amazing experience for them. Some were scared at first but with a bit of convincing and assuring them that he was in a very deep sleep, they touched him softly and somewhat hesitantly, and then all was OK! As a result, every lion they see on TV or in a photo is now called "Matata... we love Matata"!
One spring morning, on one of our regular visits with the Kindergarten to the Care Centre, we were driving to AfriCat when suddenly one little girl shouted "stop, stop"! She pointed to the back where we all saw a Steenbokkie but for Moyo (AKA Morgiane) it was a STEENBOKKIE...this little animal was just the start of what became a wonderful adventure: Warthogs and Oryx not to mention the cheetah and lions - Pepe, Venus and Mercury - they are just so big and ate so much meat and the growling made everyone go very quiet! Meeting Max 14, Chingi 16 and Yoda who is 10 years old and also the beautiful rusty red Caracal, was special and this seemed to be a highlight for most of the little ones. Jago, a tame and very friendly cheetah purred from inside his holding...for the rest of the day all the kids spoke in cheetah 'purrs'!
Donna gave everyone a picture of the predator that they had met on the visit; this was to show Mom and Dad and the siblings back home. When she lost her picture, Dalphine's tears resulted in a search party! Luckily the picture was retrieved by Gabriel, one of the smaller boys (our hero!) from where it had slipped between the seats of the game-viewing vehicle.
I/we realize how important it is to show the positive of every living thing in simple ways....
During our 3rd term we thought that it would be good to introduce a school dog, who would grow with the children; the kids could learn how to deal with a puppy and develop a love for animals in general.
We found a wonderful 8 week old Border Collie and named her Jima (from 'Okonjima'). She is absolutely wonderful and at first the smaller kids where scared but they are slowly getting used to her. The bigger kids run with her, play, chase and kick the ball around with Jima, who even joined in a soccer game! She has truly become the school dog, loves the kids and all the attention and goes into every classroom in the morning to greet the children. It is a bit disruptive at times, as they all want to greet Jima first, but hey, this is all about a love of animals!
From September we focused on recycling and sustainable use. We got some big drums from town and each class had four drums to paint for paper, glass, plastic and tin recycling. We are also using all the egg containers, milk bottles, etc. from the lodge at the school for arts and crafts.
Once the drums are filled with paper we will adopt a concept called 'paper blocks': this idea we got from an innovative Environmental Education Project in the Namib Rand Conservancy called 'Nadeet ; this project is run by Victoria Keding, who started AfriCat's Environmental School in 1999/2000 .
Paper and sawdust is mixed and soaked in water; the pulp mixture is then moulded into a brick-shaped form, pre-set a bit and then left to dry in the sun. These bricks can then be used to make fire, which reduces the number of trees chopped down for firewood. This project will be next year's biggie!
A clean environment in which to work and learn, is essential. For this reason we do a general cleaning and tidying up of the school grounds once a week.
ON the 8th of December, which marked the end of our first year, a very well practised Christmas play was brought to the stage at the PERIVOLI OKONJIMA COUNTRY SCHOOL.
What a hit it was with the kids and all the parents and spectators. We had Mary and Joseph and of course baby Jesus, three Wise Men, sheep, donkeys and - wait for it - a cheetah among the livestock, but luckily our little Perivoli cheetah was vegetarian...
Most of the mothers and aunts helped create and sew costumes for all. A 'choir' of kids sang all the beloved Christmas songs and the moms and one dad added the African melody. We hosted our very first graduation with certificates, hats and togas! All were so proud to graduate from pre- primary to grade 1. I saw some tears in the eyes of many a mom and teacher.
And so, it's the first year of 'big' school in 2012. But holidays first .... yippee!
I would like to THANK everyone who contributed to our school this year, with donations for the school, pencils, crayons, clothing, medicine (for those winter bugs!), money ... everything comes in handy!! ONCE AGAIN THANK YOU.
IMPORTANT NEWS – 2012 development:
We are in the process of completing our dining & kitchen area. The kids usually have a mid morning snack; as of January 2012 we will provide a nutritional breakfast before school and a mid- morning snack.
The Perivoli Trust is setting up 2 more schools in Namibia; one in Kalkfeld and one in Okakarara. We will keep you posted on the developments there.
Article posted: 2012-01-13 03:01:16