Finishing the school year

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June 4th 2008
Published: June 4th 2008
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As the school year wrapped up in Satiri, the oldest students were preparing for national exams while the others were preparing for vacation. I finished my 3ieme curriculum early so I could spend a few weeks doing only exercises for the exam. At this point, the majority of my students stopped coming to class. They either felt sufficiently prepared for the BEPC or had given up hope of passing it.

My school took three days to give a full practice exam. The students had hour-and-a-half written exams in math, physics/chemistry, biology, English, history/geography, and several exams in French. The tests are difficult and they need a 50% to pass and continue to high school.

The philosophy behind grading is different here: good grades do not encourage students to “keep up the good work,” as they do chez nous, rather an especially good grade tells a student that he is naturally exceptional and doesn’t need to work anymore. At first I thought this was silly, but the students seem to subscribe to it. I have found that when a student receives an abnormally high grade on a test, his subsequent work often shows less effort and his grade on the next test is often abnormally low.

With that in mind, the teachers who write the practice BEPC make the subjects a little harder than the actual test. It is hoped that if students get lower grades than they expect they will study seriously for the next month and a half before the exam.

The results of our a-little-more-difficult practice exam were not encouraging: of 60 students who took the test, one passed. Four passed my biology exam, a few others were close, and several showed little to no understanding of what we’ve been studying all year. Such results are common among the schools in rural areas like mine. Let’s hope the system works and that now the students will really grouiller.

At the end of the year I arranged another sensibilization for my 4ieme and 3ieme students. The Major, the head of the local health center, agreed to come out and talk to the students about sexually transmitted diseases and protection. The most enlightening part of his talk was this: the Major went to every boutique in the village looking for condoms to bring to the sensibilization and found that not one boutique stocked them because there was zero demand for them. NGOs make condoms cheap and readily available. Even the most uneducated villagers know something about AIDS and prevention. At least 10 middle school girls got pregnant this year (even young ones) so abstinence is clearly not a common practice. The local health center has done voluntary HIV testing for the last year; of 102 people tested, 8 were positive. When I asked students if there was HIV in Satiri, most knew that there was. The students are well aware of the seriousness of the disease, yet they still just choose not to use condoms???

Another update coming soon…


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