Jonathan’s news

It’s starting to feel a bit wintry now and there’s just a few days until we go back to school. As usual, the holidays have been almost as busy as school days.

So, what have I been doing?

Inevitably there will always be some school work that needs to be done. I have to draw up a new school timetable to accommodate further changes required by the new National Curriculum. I am also writing a new textbook to fill a big gap in what is available commercially. More about that below.

We had a full programme of activities for Easter at Hillside Methodist Church in Bulawayo. I maintain the Hillside Circuit website, where you can find out more about what we are doing.

We have a lively Sunday School at Hillside, with over 40 children aged from 3 to 13 years, which can be quite challenging because we have a shortage of teachers and sometimes I am the only one. It is a real joy and privilege to teach the children, but you do need a certain amount of energy and I often feel like I should go and lie down in a darkened room afterwards to recover from the excitement! We try to vary the activities each week. We sometimes watch movies, but I always make sure that I have ‘Plan B’ available: the week after Easter I had the projector set up and then the electricity went off. Our theme recently was “Helping Others”, so some of the children suggested that they could bring some of their outgrown clothes to give to needy children.

At work at Thekwane High School, I am still teaching Mathematics mostly to the older students. The whole education sector is talking about the new National Curriculum. It was launched in January at all levels from ECD (Early Childhood Development) to A-level. Teachers, and their students, are trying to get to grips with new syllabuses. There are big changes, especially now that continuous assessment is being introduced in a big way in all subjects. Many people are complaining that the changes have been brought in too rapidly and without enough advance consultation.

In Mathematics, we have seen Mathematics and Further Mathematics at A-level replaced by four separate subjects: Pure Mathematics, Statistics, Mechanical Mathematics and Additional Mathematics. Since many students will only be able to pick one of these and for most of them it will be Pure Mathematics, we have decided that we should reintroduce Statistics at O-level so that students will still have a knowledge of Statistics before heading to university. I volunteered to teach the first Form 3 class, but I soon discovered that there are no suitable textbooks available for O-level Statistics in Zimbabwe, so I have started writing a textbook, which I hope to finish before the end of the year. Meanwhile I am printing enough copies of the draft version of the early chapters to use with my class.

We have just enjoyed one of the best rainy seasons for many years and everywhere is looking green and the fields are full of healthy crops. This is wonderful news and most people should reap a good harvest.

Thekwane River with water
Thekwane River with water in it

We have been supporting feeding schemes for young children at Thekwane Primary School and at Twayi-twayi (which is in Ndolwane Methodist Circuit much further north of Thekwane). We have been helping at Thekwane Primary School for quite a number of years, providing maize meal, dried beans, cooking oil and salt (all non-perishables) so that the team of volunteers can cook a nutritious meal for the youngest children every school day. Now the Government of Zimbabwe has come in and started helping by providing the maize, so we now are able to concentrate on the other components of the meal and adding dried fish as an alternative. If the food situation in the local community improves we may be able to divert resources to helping the children in other ways.

Isabel and I are both members of the Bulawayo District Synod and this year the Synod met at Gwanda, the provincial capital of Matebeleland South. We slept in student accommodation and we had to be careful to keep windows and doors closed to stop baboons and monkeys from getting in and grabbing our belongings.

Synod delegates 2017
Isabel (centre) with other Synod delegates

The Synod went well, lots of intense debate as usual and an opportunity to enjoy fellowship with leaders from around the District. Our District is linked with the Natal Coastal District of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa and their District Bishop and District Bishop-elect both visited.