Friday, October 01, 2010

Plan A, Plan B, Plan C

In Zambia, I try to have a Plan A and a Plan B. Sometimes I have to come up with a Plan C. And I wonder occasionally if it’s better not to plan at all.

Today my Plan A was to go out to Zyangale Basic School and do two things. First, I planned to interview their top grade nine students to see which ones might qualify for sponsorship at Namwianga Secondary School next year. Second, I planned to have a training session with the teachers and challenge them to be intentional about teaching from a Christian perspective and also to involve their students actively in the learning process.

Last week I had sent an e-mail to Simeon, the administrator over all of Namwianga’s satellite schools, and asked him to set up the interviews and training. When I talked to him yesterday, he told me he hadn’t been able to reach the headmaster, but he assured me that we should go anyway and that we would be able to do the interviews and training sessions.

Rodgers Namuswa, Simeon, and I set out in the Land Cruiser this morning with me driving. A few miles of paved road and then we were rockin’ and rollin’ in the dirt and sand. Dodging potholes, selecting the shallowest of ruts, and fishtailing in the sand--Woo Hoo! I’m loving my bush woman status!

It was an hour of that kind of fun before we got to Zyangale: Mud brick, tin-roofed classrooms stuck out in the middle of a dry, barren field. Some of the classrooms don't have window panes. The facilities are spare, and yet this school consistently does a great job of preparing its students for high school.

We got out and walked around. There were a few students in a couple of classrooms—but no teachers! We finally located the deputy head teacher who informed us that she was the only teacher there. The others had gone into Kalomo to the District Education Office so that they could plan the activities for Tuesday's upcoming school holiday—Teacher’s Day! I tried not to fume at the waste of classroom time consumed by a holiday to celebrate teachers--this holiday that requires the sacrifice of AT LEAST two days of learning, plus all the expense of transporting an entire staff into town and giving them their per diem payments for off-campus activities. Then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I just have to do what I can and not worry about what I can’t change, and I certainly can't change a national holiday.

Time for Plan B, which is half of Plan A. We wouldn’t do teacher training, but at least we could interview students. I asked the one remaining teacher to gather any of the grade nine students who were sure to pass the government exam and might be candidates for sponsorship. I expected a handful of students, knowing that only two or three could be chosen from this one school. She took me into a room full of 19 students. She didn’t have access to their records, so she wanted me to interview them all. Gulp! This was going to take a LOT longer than I planned.

Plan C. Rodgers and I worked out a system so that we could interview all 19 of them before dark. We both talked to each one. As I finished the interview, Rodgers took the student outside and snapped a photo while I got started with the next student. It worked beautifully and we were able to interview every single one of them—even though it was painfully obvious that many were not qualified academically. I was exhausted by the time we finished.

We rocked and rolled back through the bush to Kalomo town. The bush woman role had lost its luster by this time. I was tired and hot and covered with dust--and just hoping we wouldn’t get stuck in the sand since it occurred to me that I don’t know how to set the 4-wheel drive on this borrowed Cruiser.

In Kalomo we stopped for Rodgers to go to the bank. There on the sidewalk were some of the Zyangale teachers—now finished with their Teacher’s Day preparations. We were able to talk to the head teacher and get his short list of the students who were worthy candidates for sponsorship, as well as his recommendations. As I suspected, we had interviewed many students who were not qualified.

Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. We made it through the day and got at least part of the original plan accomplished. That will do for now.

Ladies at Zyangale carrying water from the well.


denise said...

Your blog reminds me of so many of your past blogs from when you and David lived there in that you were always having to have a contingency plan. You have so much to do in one day that it makes my head spin, but if anyone can fit it all in and change course several times during the process and still keep a sweet spirit about them, it's you. Hats off to you and kiss those sweet babies for me.

Mary Ann Melton said...

Sounds like you got most of what you wanted to accomplish done even though not the way you had planned! I'm enjoying following your Africa trip via your blog!

Hope all goes smoothly!

David and Linda Gregersen said...

I certainly learned flexibility over here, and it's like riding a bike: it all comes back to you!