Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Radio Tonga One: The One and Only

…Radio station, that is. Radio in Tonga is the source of entertainment. Every house has the radio on almost all day. When I walk along the road, I’ll hear an entire song as I go, since every house is playing the radio. And it makes sense why: radios are cheap and they don’t need to be plugged in.

Radios are so ubiquitous that if the Peace Corps has something important to share with Volunteers, they might broadcast it on the radio and ask Tongans to tell a local PCV about the news. Sure enough, the first day I was in Tonga, there was a tsunami warning, and the PC broadcast that all Volunteers were required to do such and such. A PCV received a handful of phone calls from Tongans letting her know what they had heard on the radio.

Radios are a big part of education too. For an hour every morning, there are three 20-minute segments of radio-led instruction. For instance, at 9am, there might be a program for class 2 about Tongan, 9:20, class 6 about math, and 9:40, class 4 about English. On Fridays, there’s an hour-long radio program for all teachers, and we sit and listen to the radio. Or, they sit and listen to the radio while I plan lessons or work on a project.

Radio-led programs begin like this:

Radio: Good morning, class 4.

Class 4: [robotically] Good morning, Lisia.

R: How are you?

C: We are fine, thank you. How are you?

R: I’m doing very well too, thank you.

They continue, at least for the English lessons, with a story. The students hear some vocabulary for the story, which I write on the board, and perhaps a definition. Often the definitions are harder to understand than the actual word. (“Wisdom. Wisdom means the state of being sensible.”) We then listen to the story. I try to act out the story or draw things on the board, but mostly the students are lost.

Hopefully I’ll find a way to make the radio programs more productive. Or maybe I’ll be the only person on the island to turn it off.

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