In case anyone was wondering the moon finally made his pronouncement at about 9pm last Sunday and declared we should all go to work the next day!
Hey ho, another “learning to go with the flow” experience!
We did then get Tuesday and Wednesday off, which is interesting as it was a Muslim holiday connected to the finish of Ramadan, but everyone here observed and celebrated the holiday. Any excuse for a day off, I hear you whisper rudely! Maybe, but I think not. My point is, think about the harmony between the prevalent religions here, IE: Christian and Muslim. Just a thought world.
Education shouldn’t be this frustrating!
This past week has seen the efforts of returning volunteers at Good Hope resulting in some significant and exciting information coming through and in my understanding of the complexities of the system I am working within. The great news is that the 18 students who have their education sponsored by Good Hope donors are all in the top 11 of their school years and their report cards are littered with A’s and B’s. They are a smart bunch and working hard to make their individual sponsors and families proud. This proves to me that the principles we are trying to follow work in the first phase: IE: furthering the education of the vulnerable children from the community, we must wait a while to track the employment and personal achievement results but this is an encouraging start.
Where is the frustration coming from?
Primary school education is compulsory and yet the high associated costs of attendance make it prohibitive for most families. Primary education is in Kiswahili. Secondary school education switches unrelentingly to English across all subjects, Hence my passion for helping them all achieve a good standard of written and spoken English.
19% of children surveyed in a 2012 survey missed primary school regularly because they had to work.
Many of the 18 children I am reporting on failed their Standard 7 Primary School Certificate, this excludes them from the government secondary schools. Excludes them, not gives them another chance, just excludes them. At age 12 or 13 they are taught to understand exactly what failure means. Yet these kids have gone on to receive secondary education in the private sector and rise to the top 11 of their year (usually around 200 pupils).
Those that pass their Standard 7 have three months to enrol at secondary school and arrange for the incumbent financial burden to be covered by their families. Three months or out. Missed the deadline, c’est la vie, adios.
This leaves NGO’s like us forced to rely on the more expensive private school option to a large extent, which is fine, I can live with that concept. But once a child completes their private secondary education they are then excluded from any government support for further education, business loans, equipment loans etc.
Surely every educated young adult should be entitled to every possible assistance to continue their chosen career, why should their previous funding, forced by an education system that didn’t prepare them properly for secondary education, matter?
The more I start to understand the system I work within, the more frustrated I become.
A TRUE FAIRY STORY
Once upon a time in a wonderful country in East Africa there was an extremely bright girl who combated all the difficulties of the country’s education system and passed her standard 7 exam. She went on to study in the harsh all English environment of secondary school and developed her love of maths and numbers.
“I want to be an accountant.” She proudly declared. Form 4 (O level) exams came and she studied hard and applied herself.
Unfortunately for this bright girl her family ran out of the necessary school fees around the same time as the important form 4 exams and so she does not know if she passed or failed. This information is withheld in lieu of the monies. Not only are the critically important results withheld but they cannot be easily accessed upon payment of the funds.
A trip to the countries administrative capital, Dar es Salaam is the only way this exceptional young scholar can access her exam results and continue her laudable career ambition. We are confident of the pass status but that is not sufficient for her to embark on any further education programme.
Desperate to continue her education, the fairy godmother of life heard our pleas and one of the American volunteers at the local NGO school that she attends has provided the needed funds for the outstanding fee and the cost of the trip.
The trip to collect her results will be arranged over the few weeks and then I am sure the happy ending will be a life of success for this young lady.
THE END – PART ONE – TO BE CONTINUED
I daily mix with 28 boisterous and mostly polite young people, all of whom exhibit a passion for learning and a level of humility and generosity that is awe-inspiring. These kids look after each other, share what little they have and show a high level of gratitude and appreciation for what is provided for them. Their pride in the new work books recently provided by one of this blog’s readers is heart warming. I found a particular young man writing his lesson on a tatty scrap of paper and when I challenged this asking why he wasn’t using his exercise book he told me simply:
” Teacher, I want to copy into my book later, so that I can try hard with my handwriting.”
He considers his day-to-day exercise book to be for his best work only!
Because of fairy tale endings and young boys like this one I love my work here and will live with the frustrations of the systems. Every educated young person we help to embark on a meaningful life and career is one more brick laid in the solid foundations of a better future for the next generation.
As we say here, pole pole.