“That’s good! Why don’t you raise your hand?” a photo reflection by Katie Ellis

Every initial thought that enters students’ minds at the primary schools in Arusha surfaces with an undeniable sense of doubt. Phrases like “Can I say this?” “Is it right teacher?” echo around the classroom when students are provoked to answer a question they have not already been given a correct answer to. Whether it’s the way rote memorization curriculum is taught or just the customary attitudes of the children we work with, every student hears a question and immediately searches their mind for that one designated correct answer. That hesitation—that’s the moment portrayed here. This time of restraint, of the quick double-checking between student and mwalimu, or teacher as we’re so generously called, is tangible daily. That’s why it’s so essential to our lessons to employ a method of instruction that allows for many possible answers. Every picture has a story, and every story has a different ending with as much validity as the next. Thinking of the stories is the easy part, right? Maybe so. Possessing the assurance to convey them orally to a classroom? Therein lies the problem. It’s a gut wrenching feeling to see children brush their ideas under the carpet in light of drawing out a singular correct response in rote memorization curricula. If you had asked me a week into my time here in Arusha, Tanzania, if I had imagined insecurity in one’s own ideas being an obstacle in LTP, I would’ve brushed this notion under the carpet in tandem with the students’ self proclaimed ‘invalid’ ideas. Never would I think that I needed to egg on a child of the highest creativity and intellect to release those brilliant ideas. Nevertheless, we DukeEngage participants sit day in and day out, trapped in a revolving door of endlessly validating our students’ ideas in order for them to consider it worth uttering above a whisper. Usually, as the days go on, our students slowly grasp the notion of our unconditional approval and feel less inclined to seek it out before answering. I hope in time and with my endless praises of “nzuri sana!’’ (very good in Swahili) I can further wedge the fundamental notion of Literacy Through Photography into their thought process—that every answer can be a right answer—maybe even in time to beat out the doubt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s