Friday, September 21, 2012

One of my most challenging weeks in education.

It is quite hard to know where to start in blogging about the last week here in Tunis. Last Friday we closed the school early due to information that there was to be some sort of protest activity outside the American Embassy, which is right across the road from the school. As we said our good-byes to each other around 1.00 p.m. no one had any idea what would eventuate.
We were to find out later that around 2 p.m. the protest turned ugly and crowds of people lead by the salafist group smashed their way in to the outer areas of the embassy and then unbelievably moved in to our school, destroying first all of the surveillance equipment and then setting on fire our lower elementary classrooms. What followed next were crowds of young men from the local neighborhood, who seized upon the opportunity and also entered the school looting everything they could lay their hands on.
Calls of help were made by our own school guards who were obviously outnumbered to police, the fire department and the Tunisian army. What was most disturbing was their reaction—it was three to four hours later that they arrived on the scene, way too late to do anything.
On Saturday morning, the leadership team arrived at school to assess the damage—5 classes and one library completely burned out, 7 more smoke-damaged and every other space in the school a mess with upturned tables and gear thrown about. It has been unbelievable! So much destruction.
The week has seen everyone trying their hardest to pitch in and clean, sort and redistribute everything. Makeshift classes are being put together and we will prepare to re-open soon. Emotionally people are all over the place, with many tears being spilt.
It certainly will go down as one of my most challenging weeks in education. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Being multi-lingual?

The end of another busy school week in our new place has come and gone. So much to think about and plan for. Together with the rest of the leadership team, we joined with the Board in a day and a half’s retreat, which was very well facilitated by consultant David Chojnacki. I love these things! Time to “chew the fat” and work out where we are all heading.
An interesting topic came up in that when the Board members were asked about what competencies they would want their children to have mastered by the end of compulsory schooling, one of those listed was the ability to work in a language which is not their native tongue. This is new for me, coming from basically a monolingual country such as New Zealand, but as I looked around the room at a collection of highly skillful and intelligent adults who all work on a world where speaking two or three languages competently enough to function successfully is the norm.
I would have to agree with them—in this part of the world speaking only English is certainly not enough? Will being multi-lingual be a requirement for our children’s future?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Whew! What a big change!

It is really hard to believe this but Dave and I have now been living in Tunisia, North Africa for a month. We arrived on the 7 Aug and actually haven’t looked back since that day. If you are not too sure where we are, Tunisia is on the north African coast wedged between Algeria and Libya.
What I am amazed about is how quickly we have assimilated into this lifestyle. When we arrived it was extremely hot, almost furnace-like, however this week it has definitely cooled which is more to my liking.
Our welcome here by the school personnel was quite remarkable; we were met at the airport, taken shopping and handed some start up currency. It really did seem that nothing was too much trouble. They were and are all great.
Our new house is lovely with plenty of space. It will be great when our own furniture arrives but this might not happen until Nov/Dec.
One of the other new teachers, a young girl called Tiffin lives across the road and guess what she likes  to run… we have been running together at 5.15 a..m
This big change feels good at the moment. It will be interesting to see whether this feeling lasts. I have lots to do at the school, so will need to get my best change management hat on….. not rushing at the moment, just working on those relationships.