Thank God it's Friday

15th October 1999 at 01:00
Monday Get to school early to put the heaters on. We're a relatively wealthy training programme, so have two kerosene heaters. We start without half of the trainees - they have all been home for Sunday and have a cold wait on the Karakoram highway waiting for a lift. I teach a demonstration lesson about plant growth and am relieved to get through it without the children eating the seeds - unlike one of the trainees last week.

Tuesday The teachers do a 20-minute teaching activity. It's all a bit much for Mohammad Khan, who in the past three weeks has had to cope with five-minute "micro-teaching" sessions, long lesson plans and short lesson plans. "But in my school, all lesson are 35 minutes long," he pleads. Get home to find that my wife has arrived unexpectedly. She was meant to be running a science course in a valley 12 hours away, but has been helicoptered out due to civil unrest.

Wednesday We do many activities about space. The mountains are a wonderful environment for this as the skies are so clear at might. Electricity is a rare and precious commodity, and street lights are unheard of.

Thursday What a brilliant day. The two trainers who work alongside me plan and run it all; I just sit and watch, making notes. At one point there are 30 teachers outside testing their machines for water filtering, surrounded by 70 very curious students. Naib Khan does "magnetism". I am rather worried when he produces bowls of water with razor blades in the bottom, but the students love trying to get them out.

Friday It's the penultimate day of the course and trainees have to complete exit tests so we can attempt evaluation. Cheating in exams can be something of an art form in Pakistan - trying to stop teachers from copying is a full-time job.

After our breaktime snack of salty tea and paratha, the teachers try to find out why things float. All sorts of theories are proposed, and after much fun with Plasticine, we reach some kind of consensus. Mohammad Khan still insists that some colours float better than others. Later we indulge in some of the local wine, brewed from mulberries or grapes, and not the smoothest tipple in the world.

Saturday The last day of the course is celebrated with a ceremony involving lots of tea, samosas and speeches. The students give us presents of hand-embroidered pillowcases and dried fruits . I leave them with just a handshake and, I hope, a bit more confidence in their science teaching.

Tom Kelly is a volunteer working in the north of Pakistanfor the Aga Khan Education Service through VSO

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