11 November 2010

No Proselytizing in Pão, Please

Classes are done! Maybe that does not accurately convey my immense excitement and enthusiasm—classes are OVER! Fim! Finito! Done-zo! And that makes me so-oo happy. After classes ended, we had a week to prepare students’ grades, copy them onto the various official documents, and decide who would and would not pass. Within the last two trimesters, the national stipulations for passing students changed not just once, but two times, so within one school year, we have had three different systems for passing students into the next grade. Need I say that this week of grades was more than a little confusing and messy? Well, it was. Because students fail many disciplines, but instead of making their classes easier to pass, most teachers assign grades, balk at the number of failing students, and tweak grades after writing them in ink in all of the grade sheets. This is tedious, stressful, and fraudulent work, and when the national passing criteria changed for the second time after the week of doing grades, most teachers did more artful erasing and re-inking in the official documents to help students pass. But what is to be done? The education system here is broken, in my honest opinion, with regulations that change on a whim and don’t really match up. For example, with the newest stipulations, students don’t pass into the next grade if they fail design, agriculture, and physical education. Yet officially, they can pass with failing grades in math, the sciences, and the humanities. So without talking to other teachers, I would have had only four students in my class of 40 pass into ninth grade. In the end, 15 students passed—a whopping 37.5% of my class. And as a result, because my school is fairly new and repeatedly fails its eighth graders, it has almost 1000 eighth graders, while only 500 students have trickled into ninth grade, and 300 have squeaked by into tenth grade. It almost makes me want to be a teacher in the United States for a year or two, just to be able to compare the education systems. Almost... but after this, I think I will be a little burned out on teaching for a while.

The work in school is not yet done, however. Currently, the tenth graders are taking national exams. These exams are taken very seriously, with all students in Mozambique taking the same tests on the same day at the same time. The tests arrive in sealed packets, which are opened in every classroom at the exact moment when the bell rings. Yet these elaborate anti-cheating measures are nullified when teachers responsible for controlling the exams and responding to questions simply give out answers. All I can say is, ridiculous. Again, this system is broken, and I don’t see anything changing anytime soon without major, major reform. I’m trying not to lay it on too thick, but this is the reality.

On a lighter note, Erica and I are fleeing Mozambique and these wretched exams to go to Lesotho tomorrow for a three-day pony trek. It could not be better timing for us, as we are both sick to death of school. There will be a second round of national exams in a few weeks, but this trip will give our bodies a break from the heat and give us the boost we need to keep going and not be viciously bitter towards our poor colleagues in the weeks to come. Once December hits, we’re in the clear; we’ll have family coming and will do some traveling around Mozambique and South Africa, hitting the beaches and visiting Kruger National Park to see lions and tigers and bears, oh my! (Although I’m not so sure South Africa has bears, but you get the picture.)

Meanwhile, in Chibuto and outside of school, things are good. We’re having a small fence built for the dogs so they won’t chase and eat our neighbors’ chickens while unsupervised during our vacation. We just gave our house an interior makeover, throwing out tons of junk left by previous PCVs and even fashioning a couch out of my old mattress. With the temperature rising daily, there is the purchase of a fan in my near future. It’s been a long but good year, and we’re trying to exercise some control over a few small things in our life to close this year on a positive note and carry us into the next year. With that, I leave you with these pictures: me and Erica on my birthday (note the lovely mural left by a previous PCV) and a sandwich menu that features the most delightfully terrible English translation I’ve encountered in Mozambique. When things get rough, we toast simple.

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