By: Ingrid Ermanovics -CODE Program Manager
Tuesday Feb 1-4, 2010
I arrived bleary eyed – having enjoyed my flight over the rain forest and massive rivers of the Guyanese hinterland - in my crumpled black pants, shirt and sweater to a wall of heat and humidity, splashes of flowers and wonderful fragrances -- and sunshine! So many of the houses and buildings here are made of wood and raised on stilts, many of the official ones dating from Dutch or British colonial times.
In the afternoon, I headed to the Guyana Book Foundation to meet staff and see the well-established office. I was greeted by the five staff and given a tour. The office is part bookstore - where GBF displays the books it publishes, procures and purchases. Teachers and tertiary students were in and out looking around and making purchases for their schools or themselves (only one book per student – with ID – as the prices are largely subsidized and the privilege is intended to be shared around).
GBF has a varied program, one that is largely based on book distribution, but also involves the training of teachers and librarians. I learned about the daunting task of receiving, storing, tracking and distributing thousands of books each year.
The following day I met nursery workshop facilitators, both highly experienced and trained early childhood specialists, who the General Manager of GBF Leila Jagdeo, and I accompanied on a tour of 7 nursery school in the 40 degree heat and humidity. As I got dizzier I realized that I was not keeping up with the liquid intake required but it was nothing a few cold tropical juices couldn’t remedy.
The nursery schools were impressive – their physical structures – but more so the organization and dedication displayed within – literally. The rooms were full of original, creative and colourful teacher-made learning aids and manipulables of all kinds. There were plants everywhere and children’s work displayed, songs being sung and stories being told and praise and encouragement doled out. The children are experiencing so many learning opportunities that are just not available in their homes. School is also the only place for most to hear and experience standard English
The 4-6 year olds there were as darling and sweet as all children that age are – and so obviously happy and enjoying their days.
Mrs Sukhdeo and Mrs Trott were visiting the schools in advance of a workshop they will run in a day or two – in order to assess student ability, the learning environment and the learning materials and methods – to tailor the workshop as much as possible to the teacher participants who will attend from those schools. All results were shared and discussed at the end of each visit. We dropped into these schools in relatively well-off villages, in very poor ones, in formerly extremely violent ones and in some where the majority of families are involved in labour, cutting sugar cane, for example. The cross-section was an eye-opener for me.
As I walked along the sea wall later that day, the wind blasting me, I took a bite of the mango I had bought and my eyes automatically closed as I took in the intense flavour – and I reflected on what personal benefits program monitoring visits can also bring!