La Salle Study Centre Changjiao
August 2009 Newsletter
Greetings from La Salle Study Centre,
We had our last lesson for this summer two days ago on Friday 21st August. It is time to write this summer’s report while things are still fresh in my mind. I am afraid, much as I want to deny it, nowadays many things are only temporarily stored in my RAM memory and like the computer that I am so dependent on these days, they are “erased” once “switched off” when I go to sleep. So, I better get started even though the usual very reliable reminder from BV has not appeared.
It is late August but alas the annual seasonal rains have yet to appear. Every year, during the typhoon season there is heavy rainfall and the river is swollen after every heavy downpour. We are now well into the typhoon season and the expected heavy rains have not appeared. In the news we hear of natural disasters such as flooding and landslides all around and even in Meixian which is just 90 km away, but here in Changjiao we are experiencing a sort of “drought”. In mid July, while we were having lessons, the temperature soared up to 38 degrees Celsius indoors and hit 42 degrees in cemented areas under the hot sun. Dabu-Huliao was reported to be the hottest spot in the whole of Guangdong Province in July. It is very possible that Changjiao will experience water shortage at the end of this year. I am certainly glad that I dug a well early in the year. Many thought that I had turned “crazy” again then but now say I made a far-sighted more. They are certainly “softening” me up in case they have to ask me for water when their water supply runs out. Many springs in the hills have dried up.
When I last wrote in the middle of June, we were unsure if we would go ahead with the usual annual summer English Reading Programme because of health concerns connected with the H1N1 pandemic prevalent at that time. Acting on the advice of local government and health officials we made the decision to run only a limited programme for local and regular weekend students. We made the decision on 19th June and notices were put up on 20th June. As to be expected, there were still many who asked to attend the limited programme but we were adamant in turning down all requests.
Having decided to cancel the regular programme, I immediately wrote to inform would be volunteers from Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Hongkong. The biggest lost LSSC suffered this summer was the absence of Mr. and Mrs. Wang Chee Seng, our veteran of 3 summers. We had worked as a good team in the past. I prepared and taught the lessons. Mr. Wang who is very efficient with the computer, organized and ran the programme. Mrs. Wang who is strict and methodical looked after discipline and dealt with parents. We also missed our local university student volunteers who so much part of LSSC in previous summer. I wish to record our word of thank to them all.
Those who are familiar with the development of LSSC know that I have a resident assistant named Nancy. Having decided not to enroll any new students, we set about planning the summer programme which would have to be different from that of previous years as there would not be any volunteers to assist us. Around that time, some teachers from outlying districts visited us in the evenings and expressed interest in learning our PinPhonics Reading Method and we wanted to accommodate them.
We finally decided to concentrate on four things (1) to train a group of Primary 6 students to become assistant teachers for 2010, (2) to train a group of teachers how to use the PinPhonics Reading Method, (3) to give English tuition to local and nearby village students and (4) to conduct a special class for High School and University students who had been students of LSSC in the past.
We reorganized our lessons and reading materials and by 3rd July we were ready to print. By then we were tired and decided to take a day off on 4th July. Then disaster struck. Early 5th morning at 7.15 a.m. just as we were about to start printing, there was power failure. We were not too worried at that time as we regularly experienced power failures lasting 10-12 hours at the most. However this was not to be for it went on for more that 36 hours. Thank God, power was restored in the evening at 6.45 p.m. the next day. Then it struck again at around 7 a.m. on 1st August there was blackout for more than 12 hours. It certainly looks like blackout is going to be a regular feature until such time as new electrical lines are installed which is not likely in the near future. It is time to reconsider the option of buying a generator to ensure that there is power supply when lessons are in session.
Going back to Monday 6th July, our local and regular weekend students turned up to be tested and assigned their classes. The scene at LSSC that morning was very casual and orderly, as both students and parents knew exactly what to do and what not to do. It was a far cry from the scene of previous years where new students and over anxious parents were a handful to deal with. The number of students this summer was smaller than previous years and we did not take in any new students. We had 32 students in Class One (mainly Primary 4-5); 29 students in Class Two (mainly Primary 6 and Junior Middle 1 & 2); 10 teachers in the Teacher Training Class; and 48 students in the Senior Class (Senior Middle and Uni. students). In addition to the above, we trained 10 students (1 Pri.Five, 8 Pri.Six and 1 Sec.One) to be Junior Tutors. They assisted Nancy to teach Class One and were Group Leaders in Class Two. Thus we had between 120 to 140 students this summer given the fact that we began early in the summer and some students could only join us a week later.
As we did not have volunteers staying in this year, we had accommodation for the 10 Junior Tutors, 10 university students and 2 teachers. We had a community of 26 at LSSC throughout the 3 weeks of this summer’s programme. We were organized into 4 work teams that are responsible for four main house keeping activities of the day, namely cooking and washing-up for (1) breakfast (2) lunch (3) dinner; and (4) cleanliness and other daily house-keeping chores. As to be expected, a number of parents wanted their children to stay in but we had to politely turn them down.
Lessons began at 7 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m. Each class was two hours each with Ms Nancy teaching Class One from 7-9 a.m. and Class Two from 9-11 a.m. Simultaneously, I teach the Teachers Class from 7-9 a.m. and the Senior Class from 9-11 a.m. I taught a special lesson for 4 students from 3 to 4.30 p.m. for 4 students who came from Guangzhou and were unaware that the regular summer programme had been cancelled. In the evenings, from 7.30 to 9 p.m. Nancy tutored the 10 Junior Tutors while I ran “English Corner” activities for Teachers and Senior Students.
Needless to say, many were disappointed that the annual summer programme was cancelled and replaced by a limited programme for just a third of the normal of students admitted. The villagers too had mixed feelings and some missed the excitement of the influx “foreign volunteers” and of visitors to their homes in the person of parents and grandparents of waiting for the students to finish their classes. They also missed the “night shows” that were very much part and parcel of the summer programme organized by volunteers. However, from the feedback of the students who attended the limited programme, the general feeling was that they felt they benefited more this summer as compared to previous summer in terms of real and felt benefits.
When the summer programme was over, LSSC had one other important service activity and that was to help a deaf and dumb primary six student from the nearby village of Qicun. Fitting a high quality hearing aid was the easy part of the process. Teaching him to speak was the difficult part. He was frequently frustrated when he realized that he could hear but could not speak because his vocal cord and tongue were not synchronizing because of lack of use for more than 13 years. Thanks to the patience of Nancy Liao and Benny Lee, he made slow but sure progress. LSSC will have to help this student for an extended period of time as he will be a secondary one student for the next academic year. Schools reopen on Tuesday 1st September.
We thank the many Lasallians and sponsors for their support that enables LSSC to continue with its education and community development activities. God bless.
As always with love in the service of youth and nation,
All good things must
come to an end...