Affecter (Friday, 2011 April 22)

April 22, 2011

Affecter means "assigned", and sometimes "reassigned". Thus, teachers are "affected" to schools, and because teachers are technically civil servants, that’s where they go.

We’re not technically civil servants, but we’ve been assigned to our posts too. Well, for the most part. There are so few ICT volunteers that we get a little bit more leeway. And there are some terribly, terribly sweet ICT posts. One in Bangangté teaching at a university in a house with a hot water shower. One in Beua, just an hour from the beach. Just unbelievable stuff, and they’re being vacated by the "big kids", the "seniors", the guys who got here a year before us (in some cases, younger than us).

We talked amongst ourselves for a while via email. Who gets dibs on which post? Having a graduate degree makes me eligible for the Bangangté post, but to everyone’s surprise I wasn’t really interested.

Why? It’s not like my post is great. The people are annoying and rude. The patois is difficult, bordering on impossible. The students are mediocre and we’ve had numerous instances of stuff disappearing from the lab. I have highly specialized skills that aren’t being put to use here. So why stay?

In a word: progress.

They say that your first year as a Volunteer is just an utter mess. It takes you that long to get the hang of what you’re here for and how to do it. I’m only finally getting the hang of it just now. Being a Volunteer is new and strange, but even beyond that, getting used to the community and their getting used to you take time. When I first got here, I didn’t have anything but hunches about most of the people around me. Now I’ve got history, reputations, precedents, grades. And whereas before they didn’t know what to make of me except an easy mark with cool toys, these days I feel like I’m finally doing some good. I’ve put a lot of energy into getting the hang of this community, learning a few words in their patois, learning to recognize faces and the layout of the village and making friends with the vendors, and changing post now would put all of that to waste.

See, there’s visible, tangible progress. Students getting better at working in the lab, at manipulating the things I teach them. One of my students in Premiere got 15/20. This is the class full of lazy delinquents and moto-drivers-in-training. There’s the fact that the prestataire, yeah, OK, he isn’t providing the things the lycée needs, but he knows now that I can help him fix machines in other schools, and we’ve already been to Foumbot twice. One of the teachers I teach has really gotten the hang of spreadsheets and says she "loves them".

The Boys have started saying "mi di fo ka" ("motherfucker"), which is bound to get me in trouble one day. It’d be fine if they weren’t 10 and 12. They also started saying "Gosh" and "Whoops". We’ve had discussions about economics, HIV, and lots of other stuff that kids just don’t get the opportunity to talk about.

The kids in the lab are starting to get into Mario Teaches Typing, which I put on the machines way back when. They seem to be getting the hang of the semicolon (they thought it was a lower-case J first) and the idea that errors are bad and to be minimized. They’re also starting to mess around with Number Munchers. Both of these are antique DOS games that I must have downloaded back in Philadelphia or something, and they’re in English, so it’s kind of fascinating that they find them so compelling. I feel a little like a dungeon master, like I’ve loaded informatique with traps and treasures and they’re slowly exploring the labyrinth, facing the monsters and slowly, as a school, getting the hang of it. I think it’s that feeling more than anything else that keeps me here.

When it comes right down to it, this is why I came here: to make the world a slightly better place. To have the maximum positive impact. And maybe I’m not waving a magic informatique wand and solving everyone’s problems, but things are happening. Bien tôt, I’ll only have a year left. And with that year, I think I could do some good here.

One Response to “Affecter (Friday, 2011 April 22)”

  1. […] is cold, so showers at her place were a real adventure. She’s moved now to replace one of the exciting old posts vacated by our predecessors. She’s working with the Ministry of Education now, so she […]