Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Education! Education! Education!

This entry is mainly to comment on the education system of Zambia and how appalled I am that actually educating the kids seems to be last on everyone’s list. I’m outraged because, within half an hour of arriving at the school on Monday, we were informed by the headmaster that the minister of education for Zambia had called a meeting and that it would take all day, so all the children apart from grades 8 and 9 were being sent back home. So to me, this poses the question of what kind of minister is he to call a meeting within school hours, making the kids miss out on a full day of there education? It’s not just that, over the past two weeks I’ve observed that:
A: the school day is supposed to start at 7 A.M. Lessons don’t start until 7:45 at the earliest, and that’s if the teacher is enthusiastic.
B: There is no structure to the length of the lessons, no bells to signify the end of a particular one, so for example the kids could spend an hour and a half doing maths, and then fifteen minutes doing English or vice versa. It all depends upon when the teacher decides they have to start something else.
C: The kids are not at all motivated by their teachers, and the staff are quite happy to sit chatting while the kids take an hour to do a piece of work that should take twenty minutes with some prompting and help from the teachers.
D: The teachers tend to set the work on the board, and then disappear, sometimes for the entire morning. So, if a child has difficulty with the work, no help is given.
E: If a teacher is off sick, the class is just left to sit there. There are no supply teachers and the children sit and hope that some one will come along and teach them at some point. This past week I’ve had kids come and beg me to teach them something, they are so keen to learn.
F: some of the teachers even get the work they are setting wrong. Words are misspelled on the board, and maths sums are done incorrectly. Thus the kids get confused.
G: In terms of lack of materials, the classrooms are stone walls with no windows and sometimes no proper floors. The desks are mostly falling apart, and often there are up to 8 kids crammed together on a desk meant for four, making it very difficult for them to write comfortably. There is a great shortage of text books, exercise books, and writing materials.

Just some things I have noticed while being here. This week I’ve been actually teaching classes everyday, it really is a case of walk around the school and see which classes have no teachers, and you can guarantee you can find a class easily. The hard part for me is knowing what to teach them, because as the grading system is different it’s hard to know what level the kids are at. To be honest even those in the higher grades are learning basic subject matter, so it’s not difficult to set work once you find out what subject they’re supposed to be doing. All they ever seem to do in maths as well, is fractions. The kids can’t do their times tables, yet they are being taught fractions. Even the teachers have a chart with the times tables on, so I’ve been doing lots of practicing learning them off by heart with the kids. It’s just so different from western education, I don’t know how the country ever expects that the kids will go far with a system like this. The brighter ones, if motivated enough will hopefully get a decent start, the rest either drop out, fail, or get married when they hit their teens and so don’t complete their education. It is not compulsory for the kids to go to school here. It’s madness and the whole system needs reshaping, and that fucking minister wants firing!

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