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One of our teenagers, Yusif made a comment a while back about his Uncle Mark that stung a little bit. "Uncle Mark used to play football with us. But then he got too busy." As responsibility increases so does the proportion of time you spend in an office or at a laptop. There is a balance to be struck and I was helped in this during my last spell in Sierra Leone by the launching of two new initiatives - "English Club" and our Resource Centre.
Every Saturday, with the office officially closed, I was able to give my time to our Education Department and work directly with our kids. The mornings were spent at "English Club" - it's simply an extra English lesson for our older secondary students but we made it a club to try to fool everyone in to thinking that learning can be fun! We read together, worked on vocabulary development and played word games. During one class (pictured above) I got to teach a poetry lesson on Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade". It was wonderful to see the kids really get in to the debate the poem inspired about the meaning of courage. The kids all wrote poems of their own and some were really impressive.
On Saturday afternoons I would go up and open the Resource Centre. This is an incredible addition to our education program - a really well stocked library. The kids come and have a quiet place to study books on every subject as well as encyclopedias for further research and novels for when you get tired of textbooks. It was an incredibly peaceful way to spend some time - reading, shushing people like a proper librarian and fielding questions on everything from T.S. Elliot to the periodic table of the elements. Both these programs continued in my absence and the Resource Centre has gotten bigger and better! I really look forward to my Banta Saturdays and am travelling back armed to the teeth with notes on poetry, literature study guides and a huge bundle of science resources given to me by teachers from a Belfast Grammar School!
Maybe learning CAN be fun??