Monday, February 20, 2012
“Insightful” morning…I’m learning that I strongly dislike the educational system in Uganda almost as much as the medical system.
I now support 3 siblings in a private school here that is slightly better than the government school options and it is run by YWAM (Youth With A Mission) so it has Christian roots. However, it is run by administration that isn’t unlike any other school here. (Speaking of education- how do you like that double negative?) And the teachers are all Ugandan trained and not necessarily Christian. So, I’ve paid roughly 4 times as much as a public school and possibly gotten something mildly better. Smaller class sizes, teacher that I know are actually getting paid (public school teachers can go months without money from their employer, the federal government) and at least I know they are learning more about the bible than the Koran. But students are still expected to learn everything by rote, only the brightest will learn to read and a child will still be beaten if they don’t know the answer. (But last week Betty assured me that they don’t beat children nearly as often as in the public schools.)
Anyway, I’d gotten a letter (hand copied by the students from the chalk board) Friday about an 8 am meeting Monday. So like the proud member of democracy that I am I figured an opportunity to have some input was a good thing and like the idot that I am I showed up at the school at 8 am today. I was the second parent there and the first was the school’s bus driver (only they don’t have a bus, they have a truck that the kids just pile into the back of) and he left to take the nursery school kids. It took me about 5 minutes of standing around to see that my expectations of an 8am meeting and what was actually going to happen did not coincide. I located the headmaster and asked him when the meeting was going to start and his answer of 8 wasn’t pleasing to me as it was 8:20 already and there were two parents present at 8 but now he was back down to one. So tried again- what time will the meeting end? Maybe 11. Good grief. But should have seen that coming. So in not very Ugandan fashion I got straight to the point. I’m not staying here 3 more hours. What is going to be discussed at this meeting? And then I learned about Remedials. These are extra “lessons” for students who are behind and not understanding the material, after school Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. As I type this it seems like a really good idea. But you also need to know that ¾ of each class qualify for remedials. They are 3 extra hours of lecture (that’s right lecture- even for 3rd grade students and that’s right- it is just an ineffective as you would expect) so the kids will be staying until after dark, they won’t be given an additional meal and the truck won’t be bringing kids home past its 4 pm run so they will have to walk the several kilometers home 3 nights a week and both ways Saturday. Remedials translates to a significant extra payment for me and if the child is struggling from bad teaching 8 hours a day, 5 days a week why do they think that 3 more hours of bad teaching on 4 more days will improve that?!? I remember once that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
On top of all of these reasons, Betty and Manuel, being older, have responsibilities at home that don’t go away just because they are at school 11 hours a day. Those responsibilities just take place after dark and keep them from going to bed at a reasonable time. They don’t have a mother at home who has dinner waiting for them and who will wash their clothes and go to the market while they are at school.
So the reason that I’m still typing this unreasonably long post is now I have a decision to make. I’d really like third grade Joyce to learn to read someday. She really needs extra time with a teacher. But I don’t actually think remedials will provide that. I just wish I had the time and ability to help her but I just don’t. So what do I do?