Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Waldorf School Pt. 1

I have hestitated to write about the Waldorf School as I have been, until now, a little unsure about mine and Canyon's place there. We have just been visiting classes and getting to know the students and teachers for the past week and collecting ideas on what we can do to help and now are implememting our ideas. One unfortunately large draw back is the language barrier, but Tahmina and Rano (the school's founder) have been translating for us from English and German and we are learning to work around it.

The Waldorf School offers classes for children in the first through sixth grades as well as a non-Waldorf kindergarten and currently has over 100 students. It is housed in one building, a soviet kindergarten which had fallen into abandon and disrepair until seven years ago when the school was started. Seven rooms on the second floor have been renovated, not with any help from the government the teachers assure me, but by the teachers themselves alone. (Parents seem to be difficult in this school, as I understand, because it is a government school and many do not think it needs the help. It is also against Tajik tradition to donate money, even to the most needy situation, though many parents have plenty to give.) There are now six class teachers as well as an English teacher, a sport teacher, a handwork teacher, a painting teacher and a cook-- all of whom are women, except the third grade class teacher. Many of them have had at least one year of Waldorf training in Germany, but their teaching also has to (somewhat) follow government regulations. Most of them, too, are related: the sixth grade teacher, Jamila, is sisters with the handwork teacher and the painting teacher, and Babarosa (the cook) is the mother of Rano (the fifth grade teacher and also the school's founder) and the sport teacher. Her husband is the security guard.

The first floor of the building has only one usable room, the first grade classroom The rest are torn up from looting during the Tajik Civil War. All the windows have since been boarded up to hide the mess inside but the teachers are ever seeking means of renovating this floor so that the school can develop further. Next year, for instance, there will be a seventh grade but since there are not enough classrooms, alternative plans are being thought out.

The classes themselves are very reminiscent of Waldorf with many poems, songs, games, drawings and main lesson books. Sufficient supplies for all classes are, however, significantly lacking. The sixth grade handwork class, for instance, is making puppets out of scraps of cloth brought from home, cut by (very) dull scissors and sewn with bent needles. The Tajiks, as a people, are known for being very resourceful, so teachers are finding way to create a Waldorf education out of what is available, but it makes me realize how very rich my education was: there are no water colors, wooden easels or desks or faceless gnomes, nice German pencils or colored cheese cloth. The balls are flat and there are no jump ropes, hula hoops or javelins and not even a proper bathroom (just a pit in the ground, Tajik fashion). There is, however, a core group of teachers putting their efforts together, learning together and successfully creating an education center for these 100 children. There are many ways to grow, in singing and games, for example and you can be sure that these teachers are doing what they can to make this growth come about.

I must not forget to mention that "Madame Director," the government-sent employee with no relationship to Waldorf education, oversees all the teachers and tries, I'm sure, to understand this Waldorf system. There is also in EVERY classroom a picture of President Emomalii Rahmon as well as a poster of all the Tajik heroes. Ribbons of red, white and green (the colors of the Tajik flag) decorate the outside of the building, establishing a feeling of Tajik nationality and reminders that this school is not entirely free from the government's influence.

More about the students and our place there again. (To satisfy you, however, I will say that I have so far taught many music classes as well as a bit on the alphabet in Eurythmy and some games.)

1 comment:

Mick Grogan said...

Hi Aisling. From reading your blog it sounds like you are having an experience of a lifetime. I am very impressed with your blog content. From reading it I get a real feel for life in Tajikistan. Keep up the good work. Look forward to seeing you in December.