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Lesson Plans

...from Teresa Tipton....newly in Africa

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Bunki Kramer (
Tue, 23 Sep 1997 20:15:43 -0700

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Hi everybody. I'm posting this letter I received (with permission) from
Teresa (a member of our listserv) who just recently moved to Africa to
teach art. Her post makes for fascinating reading. Thought you'd enjoy.....

>Dear Bunk,
>Am I settled yet? That will take a while. I'm just getting used to
>being able to leave the school compound and not become totally intimidated
>by the onslaught of people who want to sell you something,
>approaching you on the street, through the windows
>of buses, taxis, and cars, or need a handout. There's no social
>security, welfare or retirement system, so those in need are clearly
>in need.
>The poverty is the most unbelievable thing. You simply can't imagine
>and I simply can't describe it. The school itself is quite well
>stocked with supplies but in the local schools they have nothing. Let
>me emphasize NOTHING. They are lucky if there is a chair, let alone
>books or a pencil. They don't exist. One teacher has 90-120 students and
>they get paid the same as my maid, which I'm expected to employ -
>about $75 a month. I have housing provided and I pay much more than
>that on food, and we're not talking eating out or buying meat - just
>basics, staples. I can't imagine how someone could live on that.
>The local school is a cement barracks, like an abandoned bunker.
>There is a hole for a window with twisted wire across it. Not mesh or
>screening to keep out bugs, but wires placed far enough apart to keep
>someone out. that's it. There is a woman from a local arts college
>doing research on art education in the US who is visiting my classes
>to see how I teach, and I have permission to donate old supplies to
>her so she can take them into local schools and show teachers how to
>teach art. It's quite an unusual project locally and I'm glad we can
>support it WITH ACTUAL SUPPLIES to do something. She literally has
>NOTHING when she goes there to teach. Can you imagine how to teach 120
>kids at a time with no supplies?
>People keep saying, "When it gets hot," and
>I look at them like the're crazy. How can it get any hotter? Locals
>are actually wearing sweaters because it is their winter.
>I have an AC in the art room and at home, so I can keep
>out of the worst of the heat. Problem is that now there is power
>rationing and the electric is off from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fortunately
>the school has a generator and so we have electricity for some of
>that lapse time. Food rationing has just begun because of drought
>this year. They expect famine in the interior. I live along the coast
>and have money so it doesn't affect me personally except in higher
>prices for things. But it makes you that much more aware of being on
>the other side of the "have nots." It also makes you question a
>system which has gotten rich off of the backs of the poor and
>continues to enslave them through the economic structure that exists.
>"Capitalism has no heart" the former President recently said. Sadly,
>you see how it's true.
>The kids are great here and it's wonderful being able
>to start an art program, although the classroom teachers are all
>committed to doing art in their classrooms. There was a teacher
>before me who set things up with a handout of art basics, sample
>projects, and who helped order supplies, so I'm not having to
>convince people of the value of art. I had a 6th grader stop on the
>way out of class and say, "Thankyou for the wonderful art lesson." It's
>the little things that make a >difference and keep you going.
>Women don't carry money so a woman with
>money and independent and not wrapped from head to foot in cloth is
>preyed upon both literally and figuratively. Last year a teacher who
>insisted on walking around the neighborhood kept losing her shoes.
>People are so poor that if you have no money, they will rob you of
>your shoes. You have to pass through guards who have to unlock
>the gate and then let you back in. The entire country is locked up
>this way, which makes it an effort to go from place to place. It's
>taking some time to adjust to all of it.
>But the people are surprisngly warm and friendly, in spite of the
>persistent slave/master colonialism where all caucasians and
>asian people, which here means Indian, have money and all
>people of color are poorer. There is no defined infrastructure or
>planning system, so the country is preyed upon by those who have
>resources. I myself try to be a different model and
>greet the "askaris" the guards we pass, the cleaners, the maids, etc.
>the classes of people that most people walk past as if they don't
>exist. The hierarchy of social class and power, with it wealth and
>status is very entrenched and much more difficult to transcend here,
>reinforces classism, racism, and sexism.
>Well, that's the low down on my new job. I try to stay afloat with
>humor. So keep those lively posts of yours coming.
>Asanti sana,
>Teresa (aka R2T2)

>Dear r2t2.....saw your comment to Carla........Glad to see you back on.
>How's Africa and are you settled yet? It must be so exciting1!!!!

Bunki Kramer
Los Cerros Middle School
Danville, California 94526

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