As we reach the beginning of March we have started to vary our opening hours. When we first began before Christmas we struggled to get many children to turn up before midday. Over the Winter period the cold nights have meant that people in tents could not always sleep well, so families would get up later in the morning and breakfast was around 11.30am. For the last few months we have therefore operated with our core opening hours as 12-2 and 3-5.
However with Spring now on the way, we tried an experiment this week. We asked some of the older 14 and 15 year old pupils whether they could help us as classroom assistants, translating and helping the primary aged pupils by using more Kurdish with them. In return for this we offered the teenagers some quality classroom time on their own before school at 10-12am.
At the end of this week we have already started to benefit from our teenagers help as classroom assistants. The bit of the plan which has gone awry is that the teenagers are not making it promptly for 10am. When we come into school we open the tent up and light our fire to generate some heat. The younger children literally watch for smoke signals from the fire, to know that we are open. And so as soon as they see smoke at 10am they have been rounding up their friends and all coming to school en masse. By mid week families were even getting up earlier in order to get their children to school earlier.
We will now look to do quality time with the teenagers later in the day. We have been trying to change some gender stereotyping as the boys claimed that they didn't want to 'write' and the girls didn't want to do Maths. One girl even reported that in her previous school only boys did Maths. Now, at last, we're pleased to see both boys and girls studying language and maths. Many of the teenagers still have chores each day, but we are seeing more of them coming and then staying for longer blocks of time at school. We're winning the battle against many of the distractions in the camp which keep children away from school. But there is one distraction which trumps school every time: a distraction that we don't even try to query. Nothing in the camp, literally nothing, comes before a shower token and a chance to wash in warm water