With the help of Cobra and Eddison, we got in contact with the local school in Portsmouth; Roosevelt Douglas Primary School. We met the Principal Teddy Wallace, who gave us good insights and took us on a tour. Dominica has 70 primary schools, many of them in small villages. Education from age 5-16 is free in Dominica and knowledge is highly valued in the country. When we arrived, we had to sanitise our hands outside and of course wear face masks according to the protocol. During the beginning of Covid in march 2020, Dominica had a lock down and the children were homeschooling for several months. The government provided computers and the teachers drove home to students to help them with the setup and collect the homework. The syllabus still have some limitations, only main subjects, such as maths, English, social science, science and French are taught and the school days are shorter.
Nilla went back to school another day to take part in two classes. She got a warm welcome from both teachers and students. There are 280 students in the RDPS school and 20 in each class. The classrooms are colourful and decorated with educative and motivating posters with messages such as:
School isn't super without you. Every student is important and brought up with the attitude to be willing to learn. Mrs George is the engaged teacher for K-grade, children age 5-6. A lot of work is focused on training the students to get used to learning techniques with the motto:
Focus, focus, mental focus. It was good to see that the children have fun to learn and that the teacher is also there to comfort the children if there is need.
Another class Nilla visited was grade 4 learning English grammar. It´s not an easy subject, but nevertheless so important. It was a dive into the tense of a verb. Past tense and present tense with the continuity of action and how events relate in time. This was thought in a fun and meticulous way with repeating, letting the students explain and playing games to see that everyone had understood the different verb tenses.
Both principal and teachers were pointing out the need of learning material, which is not easily accessible on an island. Creativity can keep up with this need to some point and it was gratifying to see how the students where learning French. French is mandatory from grade K on and even though French is only taught 30 minutes per week, the students showed outstanding knowledge.
On a Friday all students were dressed in the colours of the tricolore and the whole school gathered together outside to celebrate a French day together. The traditional morning ritual embraced prayers and the national anthem “Isle of Beauty, Isle of Splendour”. Then the challenges begun. Every class competed with one student counting in French, the K grades counted to 10 and grade 1 to 20 a.s.o. The winner got a medal and if one couldn’t solve the task, there was no price. Some classes showed an interaction on how to greet in French, other had prepared a dance or song. The parents had baked cakes and French food, so it was really a festive day, even the Principal showed his dance moves. Thank you so much for the warm welcome!