Rapid Calculations in Pounds, Shillings, and Pence
When we arrived in the capital, Lusaka, it was early September, and the sun shone in a clear sky day after day. We stayed in a students’ residence for a few days while we were assigned our living quarters and where we were told what posts we had been given.
In Canada, I had taught a class of five and six-year olds in Grade 1. An elementary school post would have been great but there was a little problem. There were very few university graduates in Zambia at that time, and anyone who had completed Grade 6 was qualified to teach elementary school! I was given a job teaching Math and English to High School students.
The day after we arrived we were driven to State House, the home of the President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda. In the gorgeous formal garden, we met the President, who was very welcoming and charming.
A couple of days later I went to a meeting at my new school and met the staff. Most of the teachers were from Great Britain, but there were several from India and two African women, from South Africa. One of the Africans, Lauretta Ngcobo, became a close and dear friend.
My first lesson was “Rapid Calculations in Pounds, Shillings, and Pence”. Of course I didn’t know how many pence were in a shilling, or how many shillings were in a pound. The lesson must have been torture for the students as I had to keep asking them. They were very kind and patient, though.
Every day, for the two years I taught there, we had barefoot children coming to the school, clutching pieces of paper with their marks on them, asking if they could come to our school. We all had to say that there was no room. It was heartbreaking as they knew the only way they were going to do well was to get an education. There was only one high school in Lusaka. And it was more than full.
Most of the students lived with their families in round one-room houses, with holes for windows, thatched roofs, and dirt floors. There were no bathrooms or kitchens. Cooking was done outside and I can’t imagine what it must have been like sleeping on the floor with possibly a blanket, very little nourishing food in their stomachs. The diet at that time consisted of Nshima, a porridge-like mixture, with some fruit or vegetables, and once or twice a month, some meat. The whole family ate with their fingers from a communal dish.
Our home was humble, by North American standards. Look for Part 3 to find out about the adventure involved in taking a bath!
Thanks for reading and have a good week – Maureen.