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Travel Talk

2 Sep 2014
Volunteering Trip to Fikkal (14 July – 6 August 2014)
Part II
Students learning ball throw and catchAfter much rest, I showed up at the school at 10am, the reporting time for all teaching staff and students. There are total of 132 students and about 10 staff in the school, even the Principal and Vice-principal have to teach certain subjects. I got a chance to sit in few classes and observed their lessons. Looking at the sparse condition of the classroom, I was lost for words. The students were sitting on a small bench and sharing a small long table. There is no light in the classroom, they depend on the sunlight from outside to shine into the classroom. If it is a gloomy day, they could hardly see the contents on the blackboard. The classroom is made up of four blocks of walls, raw ground, one wooden door and one small wooden window. Then, the school compound is built on mud ground. Therefore, whenever it rains, the ground is slippery and the uneven ground forms a  “water pond”. It gets worse during heavy downpour, as the whole ground gets flooded. I could not help thinking what could have been done to help improve their learning condition. Despite this, the children did not lack the attentiveness and eagerness to learn. 
Captacin Ball throw and catchMy lesson began in the afternoon.  It started with small setback before the start of the first lesson. The balls were deflated and needed an air pump to inflate them.  There was no air pump.  The balls were needed to conduct the lesson, without which I would not be able to conduct my planned programme. While I was panicking and trying to think of what else I could do with the students, the teachers told me that the air pump was on its way. What a relief! Just when I thought that I could then start my planned lesson, a teacher told me that Friday afternoons were the school activity day and that I would have the entire afternoon to conduct the lesson for the whole school. My lesson was not planned to cover a wide age range, from 5 to 14 years! I was shocked! It was not what I had expected and there was no way I could conduct my lesson in this manner. I had to tell the school that because of the age difference, the ability and skill would be different too. I had to find out the cohort size, the different level and the age group. Fortunately, the teachers helped to group the students accordingly.
Fikkal school studentsI was given a group of students of age 10 – 14 to teach a new game. As it was my first lesson, I did not know what the school was expecting or rather if the students would enjoy the game, especially the older students. My plan was to introduce a game named Captain’s Ball. It was a ball game that required passing the ball by hand.  As the students were only exposed to football and there was no structure in their play, throwing a ball using their hands was something new for them. Well, worry aside, lesson started with simple warm up exercises. Since it was the first lesson, some fun games were included to make the lesson more enjoyable, like forming a tunnel and passing the ball between the legs. Then, some techniques were taught as well, for example, chest pass and overhead throw a ball. With the help of the teachers to demonstrate the techniques, the students and teachers had fun learning and playing. I was relieved that they enjoyed themselves and I applauded for the teachers for being so spontaneous.
monsoon in nepalIt was the monsoon season and much rain was expected, especially when the school was situated high up in the mountains. On rainy days, the lessons were disrupted. There was nothing I could do with the progress. In preparation for the upcoming friendly game, I taught the students the rules of the game, how to throw the ball at a faster pace and also practise on some footwork. Blessed with good weather, the students were able to learn more. The students from Grade 3, age 7 – 9, saw the older students having fun playing and wanted to join in as well. So I taught them simple ball skills like throwing the ball up into the air and catch it. Though the lesson with them was short, they had fun. Then, I continue my lesson with Grade 5 and 6, few students from Grade 4 but older in age wanted to join in the class as well. 
monsoon in fikkal schoolThough I was absent for two days due to unwellness, I could see the improvements they had made since the first lesson. Some students had better ball sense; some had leadership qualities, and some were more mischievous. Even the girls, who were initially afraid to catch a ball, showed great improvements. I suspect that they had been practicing during my absence. I was really proud of them and praised them, which I thought might be rare for them. Into second week of school, I asked the students to lead in their own warm up routine. They managed to do it with a little help and cue from me. At the end of that, they were familiar with the standard and routine that I wanted during a lesson. They would use stone or stick found on the ground to draw a line so that a distance was created between the catcher and thrower. I also observed the older students teaching the little ones how to catch and throw a ball. I told the teacher that they could take over my job and teach the younger students when I left. I would be very happy to see that happening. 
To be continued....
Text and Story : Tiffany Lim, Singapore