Friday, 30 July 2010

Back home

Safely home to the clartiest kitchen in Scotland. Got the bleach out and scrubbing hard. Got off the plane in Edinburgh, went to the loo and met Zoe Porter and her daughters and mum! Zoe's been great at commenting on the blog and keeping up with us so that was just lovely. She's off to Bulgaria and I am off to detoxify my kitchen and phone Louise.

Louise has been finding it really hard to be left in Mae Sot by her mother so if you want to keep up with the situation for the Burmese and Karen people in Mae Sot, follow her blog and send her a wee encouraging comment at


Friday, 23 July 2010

Farewell Assembly at CDC

It was our last morning at CDC and we had come to take assembly to make sure every child in CDC Primary knew what we'd been up to and what the partnership was all about. We got up at 6am to make sure we were there for the 8.30am start... in true Burmese style, it started at 9am!

The primary school children lined up on their balconies to come over to the big assembly hall. Here you can see the primary school. The secondary school has an identical building facing this one and they also have a third building behind the assembly hall. CDC building was built to Thai standards by Child's Dream. One of the conditions of the building is that it is not used for a boarding house so CDC have boarding houses scattered around Mae Sot.

The primary children walk to the assembly hall, arms folded in single file. CDC children wear a special green uniform on a Friday. The rest of the week it's lilac and navy.

It takes quite a long time to get the 560 primary pupils out of their building into the assembly hall. As each child passes us teachers, they bow their heads out of respect to us. Imagine that in Scotland! Take note of the flagpole behind the children.

The primary goes from Kindergarten to Grade 6 but Alicia and Hannah worked with Grade 6 and Grade 7 so Grade 7 got to come too today. The guy in red was the only person who could get the CD player and mike to work. I guess he's a kind of Burmese Linda Borthwick (Campie wonderwoman) and just like her, he keeps vanishing just when it all goes wrong and everybody runs round shouting for him. Just like Linda!

Every day the Burmese and Karen schools have to sing the Thai National Anthem and raise the Thai flag. So daily all 1300 people on the campus gather on the balconies, stand facing the flag and sing the national song as pupils raise the flag, followed by a 2 minute silence. This is because the Thai government want the Burmese schools, or learning centres as the Thais say they must be called, to assimilate into Thai culture and become Thai. Of course the Burmese and Karen people are mostly desperate to return to Burma so this is a huge conflict, not just as the flag is raised but in every aspect of their daily lives.

The Burmese and Karen people accept this as part of the cost of living in another land. As an outsider, I find the song and the flag raising deeply disturbing as it encapsulates the unbearableness of being a refugee with no rights to exercise your own culture. It unleashes a real clash of emotions - I feel stirred by the sound of 1300 people singing a stirring anthem, I feel angry that the Burmese people cannot be in their own place and are made to bow to another culture. This is heightened at CDC because look at the mountains... that's Burma. So very close but so very far away.... However, I recognise that my feelings of dissonance are a luxury that these refugee and migrant people cannot afford to have. They need to survive and to survive, this is something they need to accept.

Above you can see Say Hei, the Head of the Primary School introducing us to the assembly. The children call her Pi Say Hei, which means grandmother. She is the most nurturing, wise and gentle woman you could find and her experience and bearing bring her great respect in the CDC community. She runs a boarding house for 80 girls as well as having 4 daughters and an adopted son. We are SO HONOURED to be welcoming her to Campie.
Below we all greet each other with Minglaba!

And we sing, I FEEL GOOD by Fischy Music, which transcends all cultural barriers. Thanks Stephen Fischbacher once again for the music that we use so much here on the Thai Burma border. It's a novelty for the children to sing a fun song in assembly and people stream out of secondary classes to watch from the other buildings. We're even observed by a dog on the roof of the other building! Below you can see Myo Nyu, who was the interpreter for Hannah and Alicia. He is an outstanding teacher and learner and they have so many funny and amazing stories to tell about working with him. He's a very stylish guy and is wearing his take on traditional Karen clothing in the photo. We spent most of the week calling him various versions of his name. Num num, myoo myoo, no no, nweh nweh.... He took it all in good style and told my daughter Louise that he enjoyed working with Alicia and Alcock!

At the end of Assembly, a procession of pupils came forward to give each of us a Karen tunic that they had made by hand for us, then another procession gave us a brooch and finally they gave us a beautiful mosaic picture of their traditional culture for Campie's entrance hall. Alicia took it back to Scotland so come to Campie for a look, folks. We were all moved and very emotional. Alicia is a bit of a basket case when it comes to being moved it has to be said but we were all as bad as her this time! Interesting what you learn about your staff far from home!

And then it was time to say goodbye to the children as they left the hall to go back to class with hugs and smiles and 'Thank you teeecher'.
These people just fill our hearts with love and we have all been so totally privileged to spend this week with them. They deserve so so much more than life and the Burmese junta allow them to have just now. When will it change?
Thank you CDC, Mahn Shwe Hnin - headteacher, Pi Sei Hei and all her teachers and staff, Lisa Houston and Dr Cynthia Maung for your gracious hospitality and kindness to us and for embracing our partnership.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Buddha Day

Today the schools are having special celebrations for the Buddhist Lent Festival that starts on Monday. Schools are closed on Monday and Tuesday so today they will celebrate in school. Yesterday we saw some of the preparations being made. The teachers and students had folded and pinned material to make this gorgeous display.

Candles and flowers were made into beautiful decorations to go on the display. Offerings will also be placed on the display and then this will all be given to Buddhist monks who are about to observe a 3 month period of Lent. Well that's what we've understood by what we've been told.

The display above is made up from lots of small hanging candles intertwined with flowers, hanging around a huge candle.

This display below is made by decorating another huge candle.

To Bangkok for visas

We left Mae Sot on Tuesday 20th July at midnight in a minibus we had hired to ensure safe passage to Bangkok. It's very hard for Burmese/Karen people to travel around Thailand, even with a valid passport, which everyone had. The white foreigner (Ms Laing!) being with them apparently gave them extra protection. It didn't feel like it at the 5 checkpoints we passed on the way out of Mae Sot. At one checkpoint, the soldier opened up the back of the van, shone his torch in our faces, inspected our passports then proceeded to shine his torch under each seat in the back of the minibus to make sure we weren't hoarding any Burmese people. I am a white foreigner with a valid UK passport and despite all that, I found these soldiers very intimidating. However our valid passports got us through and we arrived in Bangkok at 6am, having stopped at some mosquito filled toilets on the way. It's amazing how quickly you can use a toilet that's full of mosquitoes!

At our 6 am stop in Bangkok, our Thai driver made it clear he had no idea where we were going in Bangkok. Nightmare! We had to phone a helpful friend at 6am to ask her to tell the driver in Thai where we were going. He then drove into Bangkok, got stopped and pulled over by police... we don't know why... and eventually at 7.45am, he astounded me totally by pulling up in front of the UK Visa handling centre. I was convinced we'd come all that way for nothing. We went in and sat in the queue. The centre opens at 8.30am but agents are already there very early and there were about 20 folk in front of us. Our 3 Burmese teachers were very tense and worried about applying for their visas. Everything is done in Thai, which didn't help at all. I'd naively hoped British people might be managing this process. Eventually at 8.30am, the Visa place opened and our teachers were each given a ticket and had to go in to the centre on their own. I had to wait outside. I was very worried about them, particularly as the place was full of wealthy Thai people, flashing money at agents. So many Gucci bags on display! And our poor wee teachers sitting in bewilderment amongst them. I felt quite angry because it seemed to me that once again, the wealthy could buy their way to visas and the poor Burmese, who deserved the visas might be made to wait at the back of the queue. Maybe I was wrong ... who can tell....

After 2 hours, all 3 teachers came out smiling and relieved. 'We did it. We had all the right documents, we had the right bank cheques. They liked our letters of recommendation from UK MPs and DfID Global Partnerships. They took our passports and gave us receipts.' THEY WERE SO SO HAPPY. A stapler was pulled from their bag to staple and organise their receipts. Well done teachers.

They are also so very, very grateful to everyone in Scotland who helped raise the extra money we needed to pay for passports, visas, the minibus etc. They bow and thank me all the time so please know that all that marathon running/working, sponsored walks, all the cakes you baked and ate at Campie, have done so much good and are so immensely appreciated. Thank you all, say our 3 teachers, bowing their heads humbly. Yes, it makes you want to greet..... we do nothing compared to how they selflessly live their lives. We eventually arrived home on Wednesday night at 7pm in Mae Sot. Neeshar had to get up at 5am to cook the food for the 120 pupils at her school the next day. This is how they live......

On the way back, the driver stopped at the market to let us shop. I passed on that one! It wasn't hard to resist the pork, pictured above or the bags of fierce looking chillies at 20 bhat a bag. Say Hei bought them as a gift for her daughter.

We had left Pho Cho in Bangkok... not by mistake.... he is attending an International Labour Organisation about Child Labour for 2 days. I can't wait for Scottish friends to meet this man. He is so dedicated to striving to protect his children and his people. What a day and a half that was.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Trailblazer in Burmese Education

One of the names we have heard time and again through discussion with teachers in Mae Sot, is Dr. Thein Lwin. Sheila knows Thein Lwin and arranged what was a facinating and informative meeting for us, to find out more about his Critical Thinking movement in Burmese education. Providing training for teachers in Burmese migrant schools and refugee camps, the movement includes active learning and skills which encourage children to be able to think for themselves.
Unable to return to Burma for being politically active, Thein Lwin works tirelessly providing critical thinking training for teachers. His methods are founded in research and observation including that in Europe and America.
From children and adults alike, we heard of the hopes for the future generation of Burma. If democracry is to return, what could become of a country whose youth are uneducated or educated via authoritative rules and rote learning from government materials?
The hope for many lies in their education- a priviledge deeply valued by many Burmese who have moved to the Thai border looking for a better future.

Safely back from Bangkok...

....but shattered after an epic 19 hour round trip so blog tomorrow....... (seemed to be successful though..... night....

Home Safe and Sound

Alicia and I arrived home safely this morning into Edinburgh airport. Our 24 hour day yesterday nearly sent us over the edge when we discovered we were not booked into the hotel we thought we were staying at! We had visions of sleeping on the airport floor! Thankfully the wonderful staff at Novotel sorted it out for us and we got a taxi to the Travelodge!
Sheila be warned go to Eva Air desk for hotel voucher. You may even want to double check what the arrangements are with flight company - they were adamant we were booked into the fully booked Novotel. Took 3 hours to sort out!
We will add some photos and a few last blogs over the next few days - once the brain is in gear!
Thank you to everyone who has been reading our blog and especially to those who left encouraging messages. I know a lot of my friends and family had problems with this. I am sure they're not the only ones.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Waiting to go home...

Every day 1280 students need to go back home or to the boarding houses. This is what they do as they wait their transport.

Weblink Mae Sot to Musselburgh

Over the last week, Geoff Hart (Sheila's partner) and David Gilmour (East Lothian IT whizz) have been battling against all sorts of odds to establish a weblink between CDC and Campie Schools. This afternoon, they finally made contact in an online conference. HURRAY! Well done David and Geoff. Let's hope we can get it working with the kids in August.

Oh yes and here's the mangy school dug at their feet, doing his bit!

What a night is in store!

Tonight, Sheila and the 3 teachers from CDC and Say Ta Nar schools are setting off at 11pm in a minibus to drive from Mae Sot to the UK Visa handling office in Bangkok. It opens at 8.30am but we aim to be there from 7am to queue. Collating the documentation and submitting the online applications for our Burmese/Thai teachers to get UK visas for their forthcoming trip has taken many many frustrating hours.

For example, as I queued at the bank to withdraw the money for the visas (£68 each), Lisa phoned and said, 'Don't get cash. Ask for 3 separate bank cheques for 3400 thai bhat each, payable to the British Embassy.' I have about 5 words in Thai so slumped in horror at the task ahead. You all know how unhelpful UK banks would be about that sort of thing. However, the very polite and courteous Thai banker could not have been more helpful and we now have 3 such cheques in our hands. Why am I still not convinced this will work? Be optimistic Sheila!

I'm going to eat early so I won't need to go to the toilet until we return in however many days time to Mae Sot! You have no idea how important this is!

So think of us on our visa run.... watch this space.....

Sorry to be boring!

No, Murray, even I can't make Monitoring and Evaluating Presentations fun! My interpreter was actually in a different meeting so Dr Cynthia Maung had to do the interpretations of How Good Is Our School. What an amazing woman she is. I presented to a small group of CDC managers and leaders. Data collection to show impact on pupils is very important to them for many reasons. With such data, their funding applications can be more successful. So it looks like I've found a wee job for my ever patient husband, who previously created an outstanding database for attainment for me and other schools. Geoff is about to convert a version of Roytracker into Burmese for CDC school. What a man!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Burma - Myawaddy

So finally we hand over our passports to Burmese immigration officials and find our feet on Burmese soil in Myawaddy! We have waited so long for this and the afternoon did not disappoint. As we walk along the main street it is evident that Myawaddy has very few signs of Westernisation. No Coke signs, no KFC and no modern cars. What we find instead are lovely people who burst in to smile when we smile and say Mingla Ba (hello in Burmese)! We wander up an amazing market full of beautiful colours, smells and a wide variety of Burmese produce and textiles. If you look closely you see people working in the back of these stalls - on old fashioned Singer sewing machines - running up shorts and tops to sell. We have never experienced anything like this before. As we wander back along the main streets we see a man carrying a large bundle of Burmese money on his shoulder - can you imagine this on the streets of Musselburgh! Albeit their money is worth very little so it may not have been the thousands of pounds it looked like. After collecting our passports (thankfully) we walk back across the river which marks the border between Thailand and Burma. We are all deep in thought about the "problems" the Burmese people face and what the future holds for them. PS WE ARE HAVING HUGE PROBLEMS FINDING INTERNET ACCESS IN CHIANG MAI. THIS COMPUTER DOES NOT EVEN HAVE A WORKING RETURN KEY!! PHOTOS TO FOLLOW WHEN WE ARRIVE HOME.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The things we do for Burma!

I am sitting in my Mae Sot hotel preparing a presentation on Monitoring and Evaluating in Scottish Schools. I must be off my trolley! Can you think of a more boring subject for a presentation? However this is a really important area for CDC school, so whatever they need.... Better get on with it. Here's a boring picture to go with my boring subject!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

So proud of my teachers!

Sitting in Mae Sot's posh coffee shop, which is the only place we can find that has the internet! The hotel's is still down.
Here are Katherine, Alicia and Hannah, looking fresh, clean and ready for holiday as they left Edinburgh Airport.

Here they are, after 10 days in Mae Sot - wet, mozzy bitten and probably minging, following a cycle back from school in the torrential rain.

Katherine, Alicia and Hannah left Mae Sot yesterday morning after a very hard week's work in CDC school.

As your headteacher, Alicia, Hannah, Katherine, I am so proud of

1. the imaginative and creative teaching you modelled in CDC school
2. the relationships you built with CDC teachers and our Mae Sot friends
3. the compassion you felt for the Burmese and Karen children you met
4. your questioning of the situation here in Mae Sot for the Burmese people
5. your thinking about the future of Burma
6. your determination to develop the Campie CDC partnership in future years
7. last but not least, your courage as you overcame the very different lifestyle challenges of living here

Thank you each so much for giving so much of yourself - and your holiday time! It's great to have your companionship in our determination to let people know the situation of our Burmese and Karen friends.

So would everyone else like to know what was their typical day like?

6.15am Rise, go to toilet before you shower because the shower showers the toilet ( and the toilet roll so remember to take that out first!). Shower in erratic shower, then pack for school. This involves taking midgie cream, suntan lotion, handwash, toilet wipes, water, raincoat, sunhat, malaria tablets, camera, phone, thai money AND DON'T FORGET THE BIKE KEY.....or you have to climb 3 steep flights of hotel stairs to get it again. This happens often! Oh yes, and bring your dirty clothes down to the laundry who will have it washed, dried and ironed by the next day. Ironed everything including socks for about 50 bhats or £1!

7.15am Meet others at bikes, wait till someone climbs stairs to collect what we've forgotten like did we remember our teaching resources? Cycle first part of quite long journey to school. First half takes 15 mins.

7.40am Arrive Casa Mia for breakfast of crepes/toast and cornflakes/banana pancakes/watermelon/lime shakes/coffee.... yum. Back onto bikes unless Katherine's chain has fallen off again at which point she will cry!

8.30am Arrive school. Organise resources then teach from 9am - 3.30pm pretty well non stop in nursery, Kindergarten, Grade 1, 4, 5, 6, 7. You've read about this in the blog. What it doesn't say is that we are teaching in such hot, humid conditions that we are constantly slippy with sweat and beetroot in face. Don't underestimate how uncomfortable this is, it is truly horrible. We feel constantly MINGING! And then we have to negotiate the toilets. Sheila managed to avoid going to school toilets at all - I've worked hard to develop this technique over 4 years! Katherine was the opposite and became a master of going to local squat toilets because she went so much! There are no staff toilets and no closed cubicles, giving Katherine some interesting experiences not to be blogged but promising to make our first inservice day amusing!

3.30pm School ends as 1200 children pile into overloaded buses, run through paddy fields, walk or cycle or motorbike home. We usually stay for an after school English club or for a meeting about our Global School Partnership. We had 2 of these meetings, both attended by Dr Cynthia Maung, which was a great honour. Don, if you are reading this, Dr Cynthia Maung is a great lady who has won many humanitarian awards for her work here for the health and education of the Burmese and Karen people. She may accompany the Burmese teachers to Scotland. We hope you will be able to meet with them. I'll email you.

5.30pm Arrive back at hotel, usually drenched to skin with either rain or sweat! All collapse in Sheila and Geoff's room which he has ready at fridge temperatute using air con. All drink cold coke! Crash! We do have 3 separate rooms. 1. Geoff and Sheila 2. Hannah and Louise 3. Kat and Alicia. Rooms 2 and 3 have scary, randomly gurgling toilets. Another toilet story is that the teachers were putting their toilet paper in the toilet, resulting in almost overflowing toilets. Used toilet paper here goes in the bin, not the toilet.... yes, very ugh!)

7pm Off out for tea, to a variety of local restaurants that sell thai, burmese or western food. Typical meal costs £2.50, which is dearer than it used to be.

9.30pm Return to hotel. It's time to internet and blog. It's 3.30pm so the UK is up and we are all excited that you may have commented on our blog but usually you haven't! Ah well, we continue. Thanks to everyone who had got in touch. We know lots of you are reading and that REALLY matters to us.

11.30pm Sleep... ready to go at 6am again in the morning

Is it a holiday? For me, it's been more gruelling this year .... am I getting older? ..... CDC is further away and with Hle Bee we started at 10am. Who knows? Anyway NONE of these discomforts matter a jot when you see what we saw last night as we sat tucking into our meal.

A woman walked past pushing a battered old wheelbarrow type carrier with a toddler sitting in all the rubbish she had salvaged from bins as she walked round town in the torrential rain. Think of that child's life .... puts it all into heartbreaking perspective. Sheila


We have made it safely to Chiang Mai although barely know what day it is. The Internet access was down in Mae Sot yesterday and could still be - if you don't hear from Sheila don't panic!

Yesterday was amazing.

It began with another early start (6am - yuk!) and assembly. What an event! Kindergarten to Grade 7 packed out the assembly hall while the remaining 600 students joined in with singing and dancing from the school's balcony. It was incredibly moving as Sey Hei and Sheila reviewed the week that we'd had and the experiences that we'd shared. We sang some fabby Fischy music which the students LOVE. At the end of the assembly we were deeply touched to be gifted with beautiful Karen tops, part of the traditional outfit worn be Burmese people from the Karen state. Our outfits were completed with sparkly, delicate brooches. CDC also gifted Campie a stunning picture (inlay) of a traditional scene, made from sand, which will take pride of place at the entrance to Campie. We were very sad to leave but also excited that this is only the beginning of our friendship with CDC school.

Following are first trip to Burma (we'll fill in the details in a later blog) we visited Sey Hei's boarding house and the 80 girls that live there. We were blown away by the welcome that we received. Sey Hei and the children were literally out on the street to meet us. "You will take a little food with us?" they said.

The accommodation, which for many of the students is their only home, comprises of four floors: a living area, a basic kitchen, a floor for washing and drying clothes and two floors for the students' sleeping area. The house was highly organised. Each child had a box for their own belongings and a mat for sleeping on which was rolled up during the day. Students were split in to groups which took part in the running of the house. Washing, cleaning, ironing and cooking are part of every day life for students living in migrant boarding houses. We were surprised and shocked to learn that students could not leave the confines of the boarding house, with the exception of attending school. They live in Thailand illegally. Although they are tolerated by Thai officials they must abide by strict regulations; if they were to leave the safety of their boarding house they could be arrested and deported due to their illegal status.

While we completed the tour of the four story boarding house our food was prepared. We were acutely aware that the boarding houses lack funds and we have heard that they have had to cut back on rations, but refusing to partake in dinner would have seemed ungrateful to a culture that is based on generosity. The students diet is based on rice and fish paste so you can imagine our horror as plates of curried pork, deep fried chicken and eggs began to appear.

SORRY - no pictures for now. We are in an Internet cafe and are not allowed to upload files.

Alicia, Katherine and Hannah

Thursday, 15 July 2010


As the girls sat writing their blog I pondered over tonight's events.

I had been feeling pretty good about tonight having attended Borderline's (shop and gallery) birthday celebrations. It was a lovely way to relax after our last day of teaching at school. I had purchased quite a few items including an original painting by a local Burmese artist - who I was more than delighted to have met tonight too!

The amount I spent was around the same as a CDC's teachers monthly salary - more than the local average. What could I have done with this amount of money instead? How many days worth of food for a Boarding House could I have contributed too? How could it have improved a family's living conditions and for how long? Would they really want my money - surely they just want to go home?

The good things about this purchase are the artist will receive 75% of the price I paid. It's great fair trade and at least I know it is going to a good cause. The other thing is I will have this reminder in my house, of Burma and its' people, and when visitors ask I will be able to share their stories and raise awareness of their plight.

So what is it about CDC?

Scotland and Burma - our display.

The students loved seeing photos of themselves and Campie children.

Checking out our display!

Circle time with Grade 7

We're feeling a bit shell shocked. We did not know what to expect from this week. We feel a mixture of things now that we are coming to the end of our visit. Disbelief. The Burmese people that we have met are so sincere, welcoming and generous. Surely they could not have experienced the extraordinary hardships that we keep hearing of? The disturbing fact is that most of them have. One thing that we have realised is that each and every one of them has their own story.

Today a group of four children were finding a task difficult. Their task was to argue why their 'person' should be the one to remain in a sinking hot air balloon. There was a range of ten people including: baby, doctor, businessman, and mother. They had the 'mother'. While the other groups worked away, they didn't. They couldn't think of any reasons. They have no experience of having a mother.

Their teacher who has supported us tirelessly this week offers his students excellent, forward thinking learning experiences. He is passionate about education. His students and his own. At 16 he walked from his village in Mon State for 7 days to a refugee camp on the border in the hope of continuing his education. His mother, who he did not want him to leave, encouraged him to do this for his own future. After four years teacher training in the camp he began teaching in migrant schools. What does he do outwith school? He lives and helps to run a boarding house where students without parents live.

You cannot come here and leave again without being deeply effected by the situation of Burmese migrants and the spirit of their people. What can we do about it? At the moment we don't know, but we know that we can't do nothing.
Alicia and Hannah

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Election Day

Six parties competed to be elected in today's class election. Dynamic leaders were chosen to lead their parties and speeches were prepared and delivered with panache.

Students added to their parties manifesto, making promises to their people. Stop the deforestation of Mae Sot, let every child have access to a computer, have gym at school.

Students waited tensely while the votes came in.
The winning parties were jubilant with some leaders even made exceptance speeches.

If only Burma's October election could be as democratic.
Hannah and Alicia

Grade 4

Spent the first few periods today with Grade 4's - who seemed massive compared to tiny little nursery and kindergarten children. We think the school had really thought about our meeting last night and wanted to share their Scottish visitors around. This was great news as this school has 1200 children and many visitors so this meant our profile within the school was raised.

The children enjoyed learning a little about Scottish culture and they all felt the came away knowing at least one thing to tell a friend or family member.

This boy in the hoodie was so into learning about Scotland. He made his way round the room looking at all the photos the other children were talking about.
This boy dutifully copied my (not so exact) map of the UK onto the back of his jotter - without being asked.
This boy seemed totally disengaged during the lesson however sat and copied out a detailed drawing of Campie School - kinaesthetic learner?!
We ended the day by putting our little Kindergarten class to sleep with our relaxing song - think every day showed end so peacefully!
Signing off for tonight - no brain cells left! We are all exhausted today!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Global Schools Partnership meeting and the poo sucking machine!

Today we met to discuss our CDC-Campie partnership at 4pm after school. As we waited for Dr Cynthia to arrive, the CDC teachers were holding their noses because the poo sucking machine had arrived. This machine comes round and sucks the poos out of the toilet tanks and it was very smelly! We left after great discussion at 6.30pm. We were minging sweaty, starving and so unbearably hot.

We went then to meet the Pirniehall teachers who had just arrived then 8 Scots trekked off to eat together. Lovely.

I Feel Good!

The nursery was just lovely today! We walked in to find them all doing an active learning session in pairs. The children were given the English word for a body part by the teacher and they were then to point to that part on their partner. One of the groups was playing elbow to elbow, knee to knee. The children were so gentle with each other. It was super to watch all this going on and with such good adult : child ratios. The staff are amazing. We then gave it our all with some Fischy music!! What good ears for new language these children have?So young - 3,4 and 5 years old!

Both Grade 1's managed to get a short lesson on being happy - Emotional Literacy - similar stuff to our Creating Confident Kids Programme.

Before coming out to Thailand I had planned a series of lessons on children around the world and their rights - what you need and want to survive the world over. However having spent time teaching them songs such as I Feel Good by Fischy Music it seemed to make sense to link the work to emotions.

We looked at pictures of happy children and talked about why they may be happy. They then had to choose a favourite picture, come out to the front and use a post-it note to identify the picture and give a reason why. One girl in the picture was identified as being happy because she had a sofa to sit on - nothing to do with the toys/dolls in her arms.

Tomorrow we will get them to talk about what makes them happy. I am looking forward to hearing what they say. We are unsure how much emotional literacy work these children get and it is so important they are able to express themselves and realise it is normal to feel the way they do. What makes these children tick? Is it similar to Campie chilren?

P.S. Is this not the cutest thing ever? Sheila played a relaxing song and told them to put their heads down - quite a few fell asleep instantly. No Ms Porter we did not bore them we exhausted them with singing, actions and maths!!

How many orphans are at your school?

We were blown away today by our Burmese students. Focusing again on discussion, decision making and sharing opinions we played some simple debating games. Although initially hestiant and unfamiliar with voicing their own opinion they astounded us by their passionate, thoughtful responses to controversial statments relevent to their lives. For example:


- our families are poor; we should leave school at 15 so we can get money for food

- it's more important to eat than be in school

- if we don't get a good education we cannot get a good job and our families will always be hungry

- a good education will last your whole life

- you should go to college or university because we are the future generation

Piognant and moving stuff. Many statements were debated and they served to highlight the realities of life for Burmese migriant children. Throughout the week there have been many times where we have been aware of this, not least today when we were asked How many orphans are at your school? There are over 500 at CDC school.

Alicia and Hannah