Flora Tristan English School 2011 – Ella looks back

On a very wet afternoon in late January last year, I climbed aboard a
little yellow van/bus with a few other volunteer teachers and set off to Flora
Tristan English School for the first time. I had been told that for most of the
year, Arequipa enjoys beautiful weather and offers great views of the
surrounding volcanos. However, as I had only been in Arequipa for a few days,
and those during the rainy season, I would have to take their word for it. It
certainly seemed hard to beleive as we bumped along the potholed road and
watched the rain lashing down outside. After a while, at the instruction of a
more experienced volunteer, I pushed my way past a few old women, over the
sacks of potatoes that they had brought along with them, and off the bus. We
had reached Flora Tristan.

My first impression as we started to make our way towards the school was
that the surroundings exactly matched the colour of the rain-filled sky;
everything was grey. The dusty dirt road was grey, the little cuboid houses
with their corrugated roofs were grey, the dogs that roamed the streets were
grey (and even if they weren’t really, the grey dust that seems to settle
everywhere had made them look that way). But as we got further down the road,
bright little faces started appearing round corners and in dodorways. ‘Hola
teachers!’ they shouted to the volunteers that I was with. ‘Hola new teacher!’
they shouted to me. And then we arrived at the school – a similar size and
shape to the other buildings around, but painted in lovely bright colours, and
surrounded by children trying their hardest to get through the gates before
school time officially started. I think I fell in love right there.

I spent the next couple of months with those beautiful, cheeky, ragged,
cheerful children, teaching them what English I could. This was not always
easy. When I first started they were divided into three classes, ostensibly by
age, although a few younger ones had sneaked into class with their older
siblings. There wasn’t any kind of structured curriculum and it was difficult
to know what they had been taught in the past, so in theory a new volunteer
could be teaching the same thing as their teacher the week before. Together the
volunteers set a test and tried to get them divided up by ability properly,
which made a difference, but the lack of curriculum and continiuty meant that it
was still difficult. When I left in March I felt that my class had made good
progress, but had no way of knowing whether or not this would continue, or what
they would learn next.

Unable to keep away for too long, I returned to Arequipa in November and
found that some great progress had been made at Flora Tristan English school
mostly due to the efforts of the then volunteer-co ordinator and one
particularly dedicated volunteer who had been there for nearly a whole year
(very unusual, most volunteers spend anywhere between 2 weeks and three months,
but rarely this long). This had meant that there had been some continuity in
what the children were learning and their behavioural expectations. When I left
again in December, a thorough curriculum had been implemented for the whole
year to come, which was a huge step – but still not enough and unfortunately the
founders of the charitable organisation that was then responsible for the
school were unwilling to pay for what was really needed – a permanent, paid
staff to ensure that the community could benefit as much as possible from the
resources that the school can offer.

Happily, however, HOOP was formed earlier this year and took over
responsibility for FTES with the intention of truly developing the project. I
believe that HOOP can really address these issues and create the kind of
learning environment that will really benefit the children. They all deserve a
little colour in their lives. 

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *