My first glimpse of Matemwe village, as we crested a hill, was a mix of squalid mud huts and cement structures nestled amongst waving palm fronds and a backdrop of the bluest ocean. My first impression was reinforced the longer I stayed. A place of stark contrasts; 5* resorts and mud huts, wealthy tourists and poverty stricken villagers, superstition, sophistication, capitalism and contentment.
Having been a teacher for six years, I thought I knew what to expect going into the classroom. My assumptions were based on my experience with students who grew up in the city to middle class parents. The reality of teaching English to the village children was very different; I felt like spiderman shooting webs and missing every time. The concepts that I was teaching had no foundations to stick to. So, I had to reassess a lot of my assumptions and the learning curve was steep. Furthermore, I had to also get used to a different culture.
With proper mentoring by the veteran headmistress whom everyone referred to as ‘Teacher Zahra’, I settled in for a delightful journey where I feel I learnt more than I taught. We do not realize how guarded and cautious children in the city are until you’ve taught in the village. The children’s openness and sparkling smiles are guaranteed to raise your spirits. I may have taught some English, but they definitely taught me about the more important things in life, like contentment, kindness and sharing!
Lastly, I must say thank you to the teachers who dedicate themselves to the success of the children day in and day out. From Teacher Juma to Teacher Zahra… to teachers everywhere, salud!