Post 24 — Hygiene and Sanitation

Larry shows his charismatic camera side while teaching proper toilet usage.

Larry shows his charismatic camera side while teaching proper toilet usage.

Larry was plunged into the chaos of the project with little training or warning. The four teachers who had been on the island for several months had a bit of a head start because at least they knew what subjects they would be teaching. Larry had taught World History in Detroit but there would be little need for that until students had mastered English and a few other basics. So after careful research and much discussion, he was given the responsibility of teaching a subject that many considered to be one of the most important in the curriculum: Hygiene and Sanitation.

This was deemed a major necessity because centuries of depending upon the tide to carry away sewage had caused environmental problems for the island, as well as comical incidents when the natives were faced with the prospect of using indoor plumbing. Workers at the new airport terminal reported finding rocks in the toilets, as this was the usual substitute for paper when one was going in the ocean.

I’m supposed to tape my first programs Monday morning so I’ve been working like mad to get them ready. We don’t have any of the facilities we had at Channel 56 like picture files, huge reference libraries, etc., so each teacher is pretty much on their own as far as developing programs is concerned. The hygiene program I’m starting is directed at kids from grades 3 to 8, but I have to confine myself to about a 2nd grade vocabulary and use only basic simple sentences. This means most of the program will have to be presented visually so it will be understood. We also have to be very careful to explain any terms before we talk about them. For example, I can’t even mention the word horse or cow without showing a picture because so many kids in the isolated villages have never been on the other side of the mountains and haven’t even seen a picture of these strange, exotic creatures.

One of the first things Larry had to adjust was the way he spoke in his television lessons. The curriculum called for a basic controlled English vocabulary that would be the same across the different subjects being taught. The teaching method was called Structural English and it was designed by an Australian language specialist named George Pittman for use among the people of the South Pacific. The approach put a great deal of emphasis on short words such as of, for, the, etc. These words are hard to learn because they can’t be illustrated with a picture and are usually spoken quickly.

Further complicating the language issue was the fact that several of the American teachers came from the southern states, resulting in a population of Samoan children growing up pronouncing the greenery that pandas eat as “byam-boo-oo.”

We have special lessons in speaking Oral English. The Samoan teacher is not supposed to do a follow-up on these lessons because we are afraid they will confuse the kids with their poor English. Several of the principals have reported that the Samoan teachers do the follow-up anyway with results like this:
This is my arm—–This is my leg—-This is my feets
These are my eyes—-These are my ears—-These are my nose


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One Comment to “Post 24 — Hygiene and Sanitation”

  1. I can still hear in my mind, “Theess eess my lek! Theess eess my fooot!”


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