We've been exploring ways to entice people with money to donate for school construction, as our class space can no longer accommodate our student body, we must build. I figured it would help if I was to test a few local kids from the government schools, then compare their results with ours. Going into it, I knew we would do better, we always do, but I am looking for measurable results now; measurable results are enticing. Since we just gave our kids their midterm exams, this seemed a good place to begin, half the experiment has been done already. Charlene and I asked Farida and Joan (two students from St. Mary's) to round up a random sampling of kids from the local school to come to my house and take the same test our kids took.
Participation meant cookies, so it wasn't hard to find kids.
Like I said, I knew we would do well in comparison, but what I did not expect was the absolute massacre that it was. Our passing grade is 70%, and the midterm is our chance to see where we need to focus and project how our kids will do on the final. And they did just fine. Most passed, a few are close, and the few we knew wouldn't pass, didn't. Three of our Std 1 kids will most likely be held back next year. Junior got 16% on his math test, and I doubt he will make up the 54 points needed to pass. Hamna shida (no worries), it's ok to be held back. Government schools require 40% to continue on to the next grade.
So, we gathered about 8 kids on my porch, with their papers and pencils, Farida and Joan ( the 2 kids from St. Mary's school) ready and willing to translate. They are really quite fluent so there wasn't any problem with the kids understanding the instructions. These were kids in Stds 1, 2 and 3, with an age range of 7 to 12. Only the older kids could write their names, and only the oldest boy could do the first part of the test. Early on, we saw we needed to revamp our plan. Basically, we just asked the little kids to write their numbers from 1 to 20. Some could, some couldn't. We did some simple addition, 2 + 2, 3 + 2… Again, the older kids could do it, but the younger ones needed lots of help and it was clear they didn't understand. To sum it up, they did very poorly. We tried to give them an English test the day before but stopped soon into the exercise, it was just too cruel. Making kids feel inferior was not part of the plan.
This evening I gave the Std 3 test to Samweli's brother. Samweli is in Std 3 at St. Mary's, his brother is in Std 6 at the government school. As with the younger kids, there were sections we just had to skip over, and I wrote some problems for him to do. He got a few correct, but generally did as poorly as the others. Samweli is 3 years younger, and he did fine on the midterm.
The government school kids can't do any math in their heads, they either use their fingers or make marks on the paper. In 2003, I taught Std 6 (grade 6) English, in a government school in Idweli, a small village in the southern highlands of Tanzania not far from the Malawi border. I have first hand knowledge of how bad these village schools can be. I have been many places in Tanzania, and Ghana, and it's all the same in most rural schools.
We asked the kids if the teachers are actually present in the classroom, they said "sometimes." We asked what they had done that day, and they said they cleaned the class. Their teacher has a daughter who attends our school, and it winds me up that he will send his own kid to our school while not teaching at his own school. Teachers not arriving, or actually being in class, is not unusual here. There is no monitoring system, even the head teacher is frequently not in class. It's a bad system, and these sweet, eager little kids are getting short changed by the system everyday they sit in their classes.
There is a National Exam given yearly, in Standards (Grades) 4 and 7, which basically culls the weak from the herd. Students who fail the Standard 4 test do not continue on to Standard 5, they are just done. For those who pass that Standard 4 National Exam with the paltry 40% required, continue on, and then if they fail the Standard 7 National Exam, they are done. That's it for them. There is no chance to take the exam again. Like I said, it's a bad system. You can complain all you want about the American school system, but a kid can do well if he/she wants to there. And if the entire class failed, heads would roll. If teachers failed to show up, or sat outside and talked and used the phone during class time, more heads would roll. Not here.
So, we got our measurable results to show the people that we are a success, but we don't feel good about it. It wasn't an even match, and if this was a football game on TV, most of you would have changed the channel. We're going to need lots of money in the coming years if we are to survive, and we will be asking everyone, on a regular basis. I have tried to adequately explain how dire the situation is here, but unless you are here, it's almost impossible to grasp how grim it is. I would love to figure out a way to help all the government school kids, but the problems are just too overwhelming. If we could have a very big school, then we could get more kids from the village. But right now we have these 100 kids, and that's the best we can do.
To all of you sponsoring kids here, know that without your help, your child would be in a government school, not learning, being beaten, not getting fed, and spending school time cleaning the class while the teacher doesn't teach. I don't know what more to say but thank you, and please continue your sponsorship. What you are doing for these kids is huge, and it's an opportunity very few kids here will have. They don't realize it now, at this point they just know they like school. But they will come to realize this, and later on, they will be able to do the same for their own kids. No better way to spend your money.
Nashukuru sana (I am very grateful)
These pictures are shown so that you get and idea of what a US kid can do vs St. Mary's kids vs kids at government schools. My granddaughter happened to be the only US educated kid available for comparison. It's not a scientific study. It is done just to show that government schools in Tanzania are not educating children very well and that kids who go to St. Mary's can do a lot better - up to the level of US kids. Some of our St. Mary's kids come from the most impoverished families imaginable, yet they do well.
Our goal: to get as many sponsors for kids as possible, so that they can get a good education and be the leaders of tomorrow.
My granddaughter in grade 1 at an American school
taking the standard 1 (grade 1) midterm
(pipi is candy)
(in Tanzania when taking this test)
Again my Grade 1 granddaughter
(in Tanzania when taking this test)
This is a Standard 1 (Grade 1) test taken
by a Standard 6 (Grade 6) government school student
5 0f 20 questions were correct
|A Standard 1 (Grade1) math test done by a|
Standard 6 (Grade 6) Government School Student
2 of 15 questions correct
|Standard 1(Grade 1) math test done by a|
St. Mary's Standard 1 (Grade 1) student
84 1/2% at midterm