Being a conscientious finance person, I don’t like doing anything without specific permission. On Thursday 17 August, Mignon was out of the office and I heard that Nandi, Ndibs and Sive were running a Writing Good Essays workshop with learners at Christel House in Ottery. To my delight they said that I could join them – so whilst the cat is away the mice will play! What a wonderful experience – my inaugural in-the-field event, gaining first-hand experience of FunDza in action.
We arrived at the school and found our way to the English classroom where we would be running the workshop. The Head of the English Department introduced us and then he and the English teacher left the class in our hands. The class was set out in groups of learners at different tables. Nandi and Ndibs shared the teaching work between them while our new intern Sive was in charge of videoing the workshop. The learners were each given a FunDza book to write in and told that the class as a whole would write a descriptive story by the end of the session. There were a few looks of surprise – even from me, as this was not what I had expected.
By way of introduction the learners had to do a simple poem with their name, likes, dislikes and aspirations. This was done in such a simple way and proved to be a real ice-breaker. Some of the learners were very shy and there were lots of giggles and calling of friend’s names to read their poem rather than their own.
The learners then had to close their eyes and visualise four things which they did when they woke up in the morning. They then had to write this down. The expression on some of the learners’ faces was despairing as if to say, Oh no, do I really have to do this!
One learner asked if they could write on the next page. Nandi’s response was: “It is your book – you can write anywhere in it. Start at the back in the middle or the front – you can do what you like!”
The learners were asked to use two adjectives to describe their feelings, smell and touch. It took a little while to get the imagination going and needless to say we did not ask them to read what they had written.
They were then given a descriptive writing lesson with “Riding In A Taxi” as a topic. This was great fun. They were taught how to brainstorm the topic with ideas and once this was done each group selected a topic about the taxi. There was much giggling and looks of disbelief when they were told that neither Sive or I had been in a taxi and they needed to describe as much as possible so that we could really believe we had been in a taxi.
Topics chosen were Driver, Conductor, Passengers, Sound and Smell. Each group member had to choose four sentences about their group’s chosen topic. Out of this, one sentence was taken from each member to form a paragraph. One person from each group was chosen to read what the group had written. Whilst this was happening a call came over the loudspeaker for the head of class to go to the hall. She would not lift her head from her work she was so intent on what she was doing. When they came to call her – the response was: “I am busy – in a workshop with FunDza”.
Nandi gave an introduction to the story. The group each read out their paragraphs. Some of the descriptions of the sights and smell, the driver, etc., were hilarious. From babies crying, to women gossiping at the top of their voices, drivers driving like maniacs, conductors collecting money and whistling for other passengers from the street etc., – what fun!
Nandi gave a conclusion and guess what – we had our first group descriptive essay! By the end of the class the learners were totally relaxed and smiling. Sive showed the learners some of the video he had taken and they were really pleased. When we were leaving some of the learners asked us when we were coming back and to come back again soon.
What a lovely warm feeling I had! This was a very uplifting time for me – what a privilege to work for such an awesome organisation. Thanks guys for the amazing work you do and how proud I am to be part of FunDza. You guys rock!