Healing Through Writing

Traumatic and grievous experiences can come into our lives unexpectedly. Healing takes time and, through writing, a person can shape and explore the difficulty.  Taking time to write of our own life experience provides a way to respect, hone and understand the trauma or loss.  We dignify our lives by taking seriously, in writing, the unwanted experience.  We can make meaning of tragedy.

The same goes for our students and often opportunities for exploring loss, trauma or difficult life experiences arise within our daily class activities. Just such an opportunity offered one of our Secondary students a place to explore and reflect on loss experienced within her own family. Read Sharon Frisby's beautiful tribute to her brother, Brian, and thank you to Sharon for so willingly sharing your story.

This is in memory of Brian.

Wednesday 13th of November 2013. I still remember this day like it was yesterday. This was the day I lost a very important person - my brother, Brian.

It was a normal school day; I dressed up in my school uniform and had a seat at the dining table, waiting for the school bus to arrive. As I was waiting I heard my father’s phone ring and he answered it. I overheard him mentioning Brian’s name and later on in the call also mentioning that he would arrive in Nairobi that afternoon. After my dad was done talking on the
phone, he came to the dining table and told us about what happened. He told us that Brian had been in hospital after a car accident he had gone through the other night and he told us that he must go to Nairobi with both my older brothers, Jason and George, as soon as possible. He didn’t say much, but he told us not to worry and that everything would be fine. I was in
shock and fear. I didn’t know what to say or do but pray to God that my brother was fine.

It was now 7:30am and the school bus had finally arrived. We went to school and I had a very bad, stressful day. All I could think about was my brother, Brian. I remember at some point after lunch I started crying and everyone was asking me what was wrong, but all I could say was I’m having family problems because I didn’t really want to talk about it otherwise I might feel even worse.

After school I got home and as the bus drove through the gate I saw men and women dressed in black. At that moment I knew that Brian was gone. So we all walked in the house and my grandfather was there sitting in the kitchen, also dressed in black. Patricia asked him if Brian had passed away and he replied yes. Patricia and Tania both dropped down on the floor in tears and pain. I couldn’t believe it. My grandfather took my hand and told me that Brian had really passed away. I was now pouring in tears; my heart was burning in pain. How could this have happened?? My grandfather talked to us to try calm us down, but still we couldn’t take it in.

After some time we all settled down a bit. We sat down together as siblings and started to talk about all the good memories we had with Brian. We each said what we liked best about Brian and today I still remember what I said. I love the fact that he would always have a smile on his face and be so chilled about everything. He was always there for me as a good brother and cared so much about me. He was so playful and made everything so fun. I remember playing ‘catch and catch’ with him when I was really young, my favorite childhood game. He would catch me and shout out “It” and then
carry me up, throw me in the air then catch me again. Those were the good old days.

I will never go a day without thinking about my brother Brian, forever in my heart. I miss him so much and as the days go by I miss him even more. I believe he is in a better place now.

Written by Sharon Frisby.

BISA Bonfire Night a huge success!

The BISA Annual Bonfire Night is one of the biggest events of our school year, and Bonfire Night 2018 was no exception. After many days of rain, the sun came out just in time and the crowds came to enjoy what has become a firm favourite in the Arusha community calendar.

The games stalls were busy from the moment they opened with families enjoying apple bobbing, spin-the-wheel, face-painting, lucky dip and many more! Community vendors also came out to sell their wares, provide some delicious food and drinks, and be a part of the event. Attendees also got a sneak preview of the upcoming BISA App, due to launch on the 16th November!

BISA Bonfire Night is a key date for our BTEC Business, Music and Dance students as their performance and organisation of the event is part of their assessment towards their BTEC Qualifications. The BTEC Band plus our BTEC dance students provided some stunning entertainment, displaying their skills already learned through their courses, while the BTEC Business Students saw all their organisational hard work pay off through the high attendance and success of the event itself.

A huge thank you to everyone who came out to enjoy our event! Please take the time to watch our video slideshow of some of the highlights of our night!

The Importance of Teaching Life Skills

Recently, our Primary teaching staff got together to consider how we teach life skills within our classrooms. Education should prepare our students for the future, whether that involves going on to further study, joining the world of work or becoming an engaged member of society. Education is a process that enables students to take their place in society as effective learners, as effective professionals and as effective citizens.

There is often a mismatch between what students acquire in the classroom and the demands placed on them outside the classroom. Take the world of work, for example. In a recent survey in the UK, carried out by the research company YouGov, fewer than one in five employers thought that all or most graduates were ‘work-ready’. The overwhelming majority of companies said that graduates lacked key employability skills, such as teamwork skills,  communication skills and the ability to cope under pressure. In another recent survey, two-thirds of company bosses said that graduates don’t know how to handle customers professionally, while half of them said that graduates were incapable of working independently. If one of the purposes of education is to prepare people for the world of work, it seems has not been achieving that purpose particularly well.

In a constantly changing environment, having life skills is an essential part of being able to meet the challenges of everyday life. The dramatic changes in global economies over the past five years have been matched with the transformation in technology and these are all impacting on education, the workplace and our home life. To cope with the increasing pace and change of modern life, students need new life skills such as the ability to deal with stress and frustration. Today’s students will have many new jobs over the course of their lives, with associated pressures and the need for flexibility.

Our Primary teaching staff have been looking at new and effective ways of ensuring that the teaching of life skills is embedded within our every day activity in the classroom. By looking at fun ways of working as a team, building critical thinking and problem solving skills, building adaptability, flexibility and using creativity, members of staff shared some of the activities that they have used and collaborated on ideas to expand our own skills as teachers and develop the life skills of our students. 

In everyday life, the development of life skills helps students to:

  • Find new ways of thinking and problem solving
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  • Recognise the impact of their actions and teaches them to take responsibility for what they do rather than blame others
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  • Build confidence both in spoken skills and for group collaboration and cooperation
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  • Analyse options, make decisions and understand why they make certain choices outside the classroom 

The more we develop life skills individually, the more these affect and benefit the world in which we live:

     
  • Recognising cultural awareness and citizenship makes international cooperation easier
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  • Respecting diversity allows creativity and imagination to flourish developing a more tolerant society
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  • Developing negotiation skills, the ability to network and empathise can help to build resolutions rather than resentments.
  • Develop a greater sense of self-awareness and appreciation for others

Secondary Student, Sasha Pandit, shares her thoughts on Mental Health

The Cultural Taboo on Mental Illness - World Mental Health Day 2018

Today, I’m going to talk about mental illness and the cultural taboo entangled in it. I’d like to ask each and everyone of you to now look around yourselves. You are surrounded by dozens upon dozens of individual minds who either blossom or scream in the silence.
The American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as health conditions involving one or a combination of changes in thinking, emotion or behaviour. The key words in that definition would be “health condition”. Mental illness is just as serious as other more physical illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. Without mental stability, even the most physically stable person will feel their health deteriorate. So many people have disregarded mental disorders as just a made up phenomenon or a method of seeking attention. Mental illness is real! It is poisoning more and more of our population and we have nobody but ourselves to blame. Those suffering from mental disorders are not just making it up; they are not just attention seeking and most of all, they cannot ‘just get over it’.

Depression - one of the more common mental illnesses- is said to affect approximately 350 million people worldwide. What is the probability that 350 million people have schemed and decided to purposely suffer just to gain attention? It’s very, very low. In fact, depression is more than just sadness- which it is often wrongly paired synonymously with. Depression is a disorder that is affected by a lack or underproduction of the neuro-transmitter serotonin in the brain. Depressive people can’t just wake up one day and decide to stop producing the hormone that makes them happy in the same way that insomniacs can’t just decide to slow their production of melatonin or dopamine. Emotions are key in this situation. Love or attraction is dependant on oxytocin production and excitement is associated with rushes of adrenaline. None of this is controlled and this is the reason why ‘getting over it’ just isn’t all that simple. So many of us are insecure about who we are. There’s nothing wrong with us, we’re just brought up to believe that because we are grow up trying as hard as we can to conform to the incredibly harsh expectations of society. The very expectations that ultimately can’t even be defined because they’re all relative. We don’t realise that we’re fine the way we are because we’re born as unique individuals and that in itself makes us all perfect in our own different ways; but nobody truly believes that because we’re all hell bent on achieving societies definition of beauty- even if we end up hurting ourselves in the process.

Gerard Way, the lead singer of ‘My Chemical Romance’ (one of my favourite bands) once said, “ Would you destroy something perfect in order to make it beautiful?” This quote honestly speaks out to me because so many of us have set out on this unending quest for beauty when in actuality, we were all perfect to begin with. Why do numbers define us? What defines beauty? The number of likes on an Instagram post? The number of views on a snapchat story? The numbers you see on the weighing scale that you then use as an excuse to starve yourself? When will we realise that being beautiful isn’t real - it’s a socially constructed standard! We’re all perfect - we were born that way and it sickens me that worryingly very few of us are able to understand that - much less accept it. Worst of all, we just plaster a smile that gets seemingly wider as our self-esteem deteriorates.

We live in the 21st century and so medical advances are at their peak - mental illness can be medicinally treated once properly diagnosed. This treatment can then also be further assisted with the help of therapy. This, however, is only going to happen if the individual suffering speaks up about their condition. Look around you. 1 in 4 people are said to suffer from a mental illness throughout the course of their lives. Think of your household, think of your classes. 1 in every 4 people. How many people do you know? As much as a quarter of those people are suffering; are you even aware of it? However worrying this statistic may be, it only accounts for those who have been clinically diagnosed.

What about those who haven’t spoken up? How many more of us are suffering in the silence while the rest are left blossoming in the ignorance? We can’t know for sure because people are afraid to speak up. I like to think of repression as a balloon being filled with water. Think of the balloon as someone’s mind and the water as the negativity that is tied to mental illness. Now, imagine you are filling that balloon with water. Eventually, it gets full and can’t hold any more but you don’t close the tap. Eventually, the balloon is going to burst and that, is a mental breakdown. Even if you close the tap once it gets full, the balloon will still be delicate as ever and unable to contain itself. In the same way, people should feel comfortable enough to talk about their problems before they reach their breaking point but this is not happening. People are so terrified of being judged, or ostracised because of their problems that they get repressed - which only makes it worse. People are being pressured to hide their issues instead of speaking up about them and as a consequence, they are
made to suffer alone.

What I would like you all to take back from this would be a more open mind about the struggles that people face - particularly the ones that encircle mental disorders. Your best friend could be suffering and you might not even be aware of it. Our society is saturated with repression and the only thing we can do to counteract it would be to be more accepting of each other. Pay more attention to those around you. Emma Goldman once said “The most violent element in society is ignorance.” We need to start caring more about what people go through and stop turning a blind eye to our loved ones as they continue to silently destroy themselves. Nobody should ever have to suffer on their own.

There are 7.6 billion people and we’re still crying alone. It’s not okay. We’re not okay and we should be able to say that.

Year 7 Oldupai Gorge Trip - A Reflection from Ms Doria

The Year 7 trip is designed to educate our young people about the geographical magnificence of where we live and, at the same time to learn about how valleys are made, rifts are formed and the role of various eco zones in maintaining a healthy environment. Alongside this, the children are also learning one of the most important parts of history – where do we come from?

Not only are the children learning all of that but also how to be team players, build a camp, be in the wild, overcome fears and self doubt and most importantly to feel freedom, discover and have fun.

There is no better journey than a safari to the world famous caldera, Ngorongoro Crater and the place of all our roots, Oldupai Gorge. These magnificent places are exemplary to all of the above. We are extremely lucky to be able to access them.

THURSDAY 4TH OCTOBER

After packing our bus with tents, mattresses and food, we sped into the morning, crossing the great Maasai Steppes, climbing the ragged Great Rift Wall and stopped for a picnic lunch at Panorama Campsite. Perched on the edge of the rift, with Lake Manyara twinkling far below, there seemed like no better classroom for a geography lesson. While we munched our delicious lunches made by Musa, Mr Wallace delivered a fascinating lesson on how valleys are made and how the Rift was formed.

Our next stop was the viewing point on the edge of the iconic Ngorongoro Crater rim. It is absolutely beautiful. The air is crisp and the light sparkles. The skies are wide. It is hard to find words which equate the beauty of this crater. It is dreamlike.

Once more, Mr Wallace gave an informative lesson on how the caldera was formed. In fact, it was so entertaining and interesting, even a few passing tourists paused a while to glean some new information.

We drove along the rim, looking down on tumbling forests on one side and the crater on the other, a veritable knife edge. Our driver, Joshua, was excellent and careful. We arrived at Simba public campsite and wasted no time in setting up camp. Ms Lulu, Ms Doria and Mr Wallace assisted the children in putting up their tents. We were impressed with how efficiently this was done. There was great team work involved. Mr Wallace conducted a tent inspection and scored each team.

After this, it was fun and games before night fell. Duck Duck Goose was a brilliant way in letting out some pent-up energy, a favourite game of the Year 7’s. We were also visited by a rather friendly bull elephant. The children had to learn to respect the wild, be quiet and keep their distance. . . The campsite was dotted with some fat, shiny Zebra who seemed not to mind the wild games and shrieks of delight from the children. It was a dream like place to be.

After dinner, immaculately prepared by Bro Musa, we sat under the twinkling stars and told a few ghost stories, Ms Doria’s winning the prize for the scariest. Soon we were all zipped into our tents safely until morning.

FRIDAY 5TH OCTOBER

At first light, children tumbled out their tents, bursting for the loo! After a tasty breakfast, over which some rather imaginative stories of the night were shared ( warthogs trying to scuffle tents, hyena sniffings and other rather wild and exaggerated tales which only indicate wonderfully vivid imaginations ) and another tent inspection by Mr Wallace, we were on the bus again, and this time to Oldupai Gorge!

The drive is absolutely splendid. We wound our way down the other side of the rim, the world falling away into the blue and beyond, with the Serengeti like a distant dream on the horizon.

Once again, Mr Wallace kept the children completely engaged along the way, teaching biology, geography and history in an innovative and captivating manner. It was so inspiring to see children engaged in their passing world and not in their screens, taking notes for their Deep Learning Projects.

Oldupai Gorge is, well, iconic and imperative to understanding who we are and where we all came from, all of us across the world.  It is hauntingly powerful and ancient. The new museum is outstanding! In fact, there is almost too much information to absorb in one visit. The children took their own tour, armed with pens, cameras and clip boards.  

After wandering around the circular tour of the displays we gathered in the beautiful auditorium, which overlooks the famous gorge where the Leakeys made their world famous discoveries, shedding light and truth on our ancestors and heritage. Here Ndegere gave us an informative lecture, the gorge a perfect backdrop.

After this, we munched our packed lunches in the restaurant area and then headed down into the gorge with Ndegere, finding fossils, bones and stone tools. It is utterly incredible to think how rich this place is in history. The children were brave and strong and walked down steep stony paths in the blazing heat without complaint, thrilled with their discoveries.

I for one, was sad to leave. James did mention, “ But Miss, you said this was going to be fun?”  I suspect he imagined zip lines and a fun park to be thrown in somewhere along the line…

We were happy to be back high up on the Crater where the air is cool and invigorating. That night, our friendly bull elephant called on us again, right in the middle of a marshmallow roasting party at our little camp fire. We had to walk quietly and quickly to the kitchen area. We returned to complete the sweet feast and then zipped ourselves up tightly into our tents.

Once silence descended our little explorative party, Mr Elephant soon tip toed out of the forest and,  under the quiet and tremulous stars, like a proverbial ship in the night, silently made his way past our tents, a beautiful tribute to the end of our safari.

SATURDAY 6TH OCTOBER

After breakfast, the children packed up their tents, under the eagle eye of Mr Wallace, and we headed home, our heads and hearts full to the brim from this incredible foray into our history.

How fortunate we all are to live in Tanzania, so rich in heritage and blessed with one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. And even more, how incredibly lucky we are to be able to share it with the next generation, hoping that they shall hold it gently and respectfully in their hands.