It is a beautiful day here in Kayanga, especially because we just finished a four-day training seminar with our group leaders. I am now riding an exuberant high fueled by leadership activities, art projects and science experiments! The seminar went excellently, and we are now primed and ready to deliver another successful program to our 25 students when we start class Monday.
Last time I posted, we had just started advertising for our open group leader positions. We interviewed all promising applicants, and although many performed well in their interviews, we found two young ladies with exactly the qualities we were looking for. They joined the three leaders from last program who are still here in Kayanga and participated in Ota’s second group leader training seminar.
So what did we do during the four days we spent with our group leaders? Half of the seminar was spent on leadership and team building activities. We held discussions, played games and turned five individuals into a team of leaders that will help guide our students these next three weeks. We spent the other half of the training going over our syllabus and explaining how the various art projects and science projects we use will help our students develop creative and critical thinking skills. It’s amazing how effective simple science experiments can be. There were a few times our group leaders were amazed by the outcome of a project, and I can’t wait to now perform these experiments with our students.
Another part of the training I really enjoyed was the discussion Amizade’s local site director Sam Kayongo had with our students about issues of water scarcity and water quality in Tanzania. Sam has worked for several years with various development organizations and helped our leaders explore different causes of and solutions to the water issues Tanzanians face. The importance of water and how to clean and conserve it is a major focus of this programs syllabus, so I am excited Sam was able to provide a more in-depth exploration of these issues for our leaders.
The group leader training session was also successful because our head teacher Pontian ran almost the entire program. Last time I led most of the training, but this time I asked Pontian to lead so I could gauge how well he will do in future programs when I am not there with him. I am happy to say he did excellently and I only had to chime in a few times to add extra clarification. This gives me great hope that we have a strong team and strong program structure that will allow Ota to continue even when I can not return for every session.
One final note to add is that we once again hosted a pre-session meeting with our students’ parents where we went over the program schedule, explained the major themes of our new syllabus and asked for any questions or advice they might have. The parents were very happy that we have expanded the program to three weeks and will now teach the students three to four English vocabulary words every day, two things they requested of us after last program. However, they were extremely dismayed when I told them all that I would most likely not be coming back to Kayanga to run the next program. Their responses touched me and made me want to exclaim, “But of course I was joking; I will be here for every Ota program for years to come!” Instead, I explained to them that I will always be involved with Ota but it is best if the program can be run by local people. They seemed to understand this, and we closed our meeting with a series of comments from parents about how happy they are that Ota has returned for a second program.
So now our teachers are ready, our parents are ready and our students are ready. The only thing left to do is get the second session of the Ota Initiative started! Monday can’t come fast enough.