Geoff Tennant - Promoting access to mathematics for all
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10/2/13: Convocation and Sunday School

His Highness Prince Karim the Aga Khan asks me to thank you for reading this blog.

Convocation, or graduation of last year’s students, took place on Wednesday.  What a great occasion!  Different to the equivalent in the UK, robes are worn according to job rather than highest degree held, so here I am wearing faculty robes.  Have to say, one thing  I really like about this picture is that it makes the headgear look even more outlandish than it actually is, as is probably obvious, that’s a shrub behind me as is made clear in this picture:

Convocation is taken very seriously, with very senior people coming from the Aga Khan University.  Similar to US Universities, a whole number of people have titles which imply that they are ultimately in charge – the President, the Provost, the Director General, the Chancellor.  Whereas, of course, in the UK tradition, those in charge have titles which imply that they’re not, eg. Vice Chancellor of a University and Permanent Secretary of a Government ministry.  I’m sure that there’s a moral here somewhere…
Part of the package for our students is that they agree to be on call as Professional Development Tutors to undertake workshops across East Africa, so this was a great occasion to meet the group whom I hadn’t, of course, worked with, in order to promote the idea and to take contact and other information to help to arrange this in due course.  Many of our current students also attended, partly to support those from previous years.  James, the husband of our director Pauline, suggested that we could sing the National Anthem rather than use a recording, so I’m currently memorizing it, so far up to, ‘Mungu ibariki Afrika / Wabariki jeongozi wake’, more coming soon!  Same tune as the South African National Anthem.

Before I finish on Convocation, a couple more pictures:

The other thing I wanted to tell you about is Sunday School.  I’m now a leader with the 9-11 group!  And this morning I was the main leader for the session!  Thought we could start with some singing, went for, ‘Higher (x8) lift up Jesus higher’.  It is, of course, essential whilst singing this to be pointing upwards, eventually getting to arms fully outstretched, and then to start jumping up and down to make the point, we REALLY do want to lift Jesus higher!  Was feeling slightly disappointed that the children weren’t responding to my enthusiasm in singing and doing the actions when they helpfully – and with some alarm – pointed out that I was millimetres away from having my fingers lopped off by the ceiling mounted fan going full pelt.  How long is it that I’ve been here now?  And still so much to learn….  Hopefully I won’t suffer too many injuries in completing my education.
Session seemed to go well, certainly I enjoyed it!  As I was leaving the building I was waylaid by a girl aged about 6 who very solemnly shook hands with me.  When I tried to speak to her it became apparent that she didn’t speak English, we were in the interchange time between the English and Swahili morning services, so it’s likely that she was there for the latter.  I decided that a way to make a connection was to sing the National Anthem as far as I got, which seemed to work.  Whilst this was going on, we were joined by a boy aged about 3 wearing a t-shirt including the word ‘Santa’.  I was about to make a suitable remark, when I realized that the caption in full read, ‘Who needs Santa?  I’ve got credit.’
At a wider Aga Khan family event a few months ago I met a businessman who imports and distributes second hand clothes from the United States, collected there by charities.  I’m guessing that this is how this t-shirt got here.  Now, was this t-shirt just part of a general pile, or did some idiot manufacturer have them printed, find they weren’t selling in the US (or wherever) and decide to cut his losses by sending them here?  I console myself that certainly the boy, and likely also his parents and other adults around him, don’t understand what this caption is saying, and probably like me initially are only picking up on the word ‘Santa’.  But who – WHO – in their right mind can think that this is a suitable caption for a t-shirt at all, let alone one in a size for a very young child?  I like to think that I have a sense of humour but I cannot find it in my heart to see the funny side of this.  I’m left feeling angry and embarrassed that westerners like me see fit to dump our rubbish on this wonderful and special continent, full of loving and gracious people.
OK, rant over.  Any suggestions for positive action gratefully received.  Struggling slightly with my Internet connection, hoping to return to weekly posts shortly.  Monitoring usage figures is becoming a borderline obsession, it’s great to have your support, thank you.

8 Comments to 10/2/13: Convocation and Sunday School:

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Elaine Franklin on 10 February 2013 13:47
Hi Geoff, What a wonderful hat! I'm really enjoying keeping up with your adventures. You are not forgotten in the UK, in fact you got a mention during a session at St Mary's only this week (relating to Algebra as Object). I'm now full time on my second placement at Greenford High, another non-selective school with a fantastically diverse student population who are wonderful to work with. I also unbelievably find myself starting to apply for an NQT post, where did the last 12 months go? Take care (especially in the vicinity of ceiling fans), Elaine.
Reply to comment
Geoff on 10 February 2013 23:24
Great to hear from you, Elaine. Actually, just about to complete an article for 'Mathematics Teaching' on 'algebra as object', have textbooks from Tanzania and India which help to make the point. Glad to hear the teacher training is going well, and good luck with your applications, Geoff

David Mansergh on 11 February 2013 16:32
Hi Geoff, that's a great outfit! I assume that it's not entirely suitable on hotter days? It's good to hear that you are getting involved at church. Perhaps you should carry out a written risk assessment before the next session! Best wishes, David.
Reply to comment
Geoff on 11 February 2013 23:29
It is a good outfit, isn't it? Yes, a little on the hot side, is possible to forgo the jacket but it's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make for scholarship! Interesting point about risk assessments. In fact I had checked out the room before the service began, noting that there were enough chairs and that the acoustics were suitable for singing, 'Higher, higher'. Had I been doing a full risk assessment, I don't think it would have occurred to me that the fans become a hazard when you're jumping up and down. This reminds me of when I was working in Leicester, some students were organising an event for children in one of the University buildings. Their risk assesmsent noted number of chairs, how far windows opened, cracks on the floor etc. But they completely failed to notice that the route to the room went right past a perpetual lift (sometimes called a Paternoster lift) which, if not managed properly, could have been a massive hazard. Not quite sure what the moral is here, but I'm sure there is one. Trust you're well and thank you for contributing, Geoff

Mick Rosinger on 13 February 2013 06:29
It is great that you appear to have developed such affection for the people and culture of Tanzania. Your students are so lucky to have you working with them. Mick
Reply to comment
Geoff on 13 February 2013 07:16
Thank you, Mick, it's kind of you to say so. I mention in the blog that I've been gathering information about last year's students in order that they might be undertaking work on our behalf and getting some really lovely replies. Starting to get bookings for my spare room, you'd be very welcome to make one also!

Pete Tennant on 18 February 2013 06:12
Hi Geoff, just caught up on your blog, great stuff, keep it coming. Love the hat! Done any fishing yet? Love, Bruv Pete x
Reply to comment
Geoff on 18 February 2013 09:19
Thanks, Pete. No fishing as yet, but when I was in Zanzibar I learnt how to commission a boat for the purpose. Bought fish from Bagomoyo fish market which was quite fun to cook. Come over and let's see what we can do! Love to you all, Geoff

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