Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Weekly English Classes

Contributed by Farzana Rasheed

In an effort to re-inforce some basic English grammar, spelling and syntax amongst our Liberian staff, we have been regularly holding 'classroom' sessions at our office. This has entailed weekly spelling and vocabulary tests where we started off with 20 words and kept adding new ones every week. The words I selected were quite random, ranging from IT buzzwords to really basic words. 

I was pleased to see how enthusiastic and competitive the staff is in response to these tests. I found that my staff was writing down words as they thought it should be pronounced. So, not only was there a gap between how some words are and should be pronounced, but a gap between how it is spoken and spelled. The girls especially have been extremely excited about making sure they got their words right and, making an effort to also understanding the meanings and enrichen their vocabularies. 

Why are we going to such lengths to go back to language basics? Well, first of all, my general impression is that the current education system in Liberia is not producing high school or even university graduates that are equipped with basic skills and knowledge. I often encounter some surprisingly glaring mistakes in written communication. So, I feel that I should try to expose staff to the correct usage and expression. Secondly, NATC produces a lot of paperwork! We have call logs that need to be filled out each time we are on site. We are also often requested by clients to file monthly reports. 

I have been providing feedback to staff on the call logs they write and, encourage them to be more precise, use the technical words, and to write self-explanatory summaries of what they accomplished on site. What was the problem they encountered and how did they diagnose it? What was the problem resolution? Where there any challenges? Call logs have started to improve but we are still a long ways from staff being able to produce monthly reports, to capture what happened, to be able to summarise key points and reflect on challenges and recommendations on improvement. It sounds a bit bureaucratic but monthly reports don't have to be! They can be crisp and delightful without going on and on. 

It is work in progress and in a short time, our staff will get to a point where they are able to capture what it is they are accomplishing on a call log, monthly report or blog entry. 

Meanwhile, we have been extremely lucky to have a wonderful lady, Jane Wright, come in and conduct basic English grammar lessons. She's been coming in for the past 3 weeks and, given she has been a teacher and social worker in the past, she is much more patient than I am. I have usually been working inside my office and only come out once or twice to take a peep, but I often hear jolly laughter and excited exclaimations from Jane and the staff. 

Jane will also be writing about her experience but in the meantime, I would like to share some pictures of the classes. 

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