Wednesday, October 19, 2011

School Progress

Today, Kelvin and I decided that we had to go check up on some of our boys at school. We currently have four in Mombasa at four different institutes all studying four very different things. 

Our first stop was for a boy who needed us to go pay for him to go on a field trip with the school. We headed to the school ready to pay the fee. Once we got there, we had a chat with the dean of students and the boy's teacher who told us that he was not impressed with our young man. Apparently he was caught cheating in one of his exams. He was asked to bring in a guardian and said he didn't have one (we fill in as his guardians as his parents live in another part of the country). They told him he needed to write three apology letters to the school. When I read the letters, I giggled. They read something like this, "I sincerely apologize for being caught cheating in my exams." He was sorry he was caught. Not sorry he cheated. I think it was just an english mistake but I thought it was funny. 

The dean made the decision that he would not be allowed to go on the field trip because of his actions. Fair enough. The dean began to explain to us some of the crazy things that some kids do in their school. I started to realize that our kid was not out of the ordinary. 

The teacher then let us see some of his assignments and previous exams. We were shocked to see that he was one of the top students in the class. We are not sure why he felt he needed to cheat when he seemed to be pretty bright. None the less, the school handled it well and Kelvin plans to talk to him at practice tonight. There is another field trip in April that he will be able to attend. 

We then headed to the art school where our goalkeeper is studying. We have made pretty good relationships with the staff so they were happy to see us. Upon walking in, the receptionist said, "We tried calling you a few weeks ago but you couldn't be reached." I knew this wasn't good as I had given her my number in case something was not going well with our kid. She explained that he had missed almost 2 weeks of school and they were getting worried. After the 2 weeks,  he called and said he went upcountry for a burial. Kelvin and I looked at each other puzzled as he never mentioned this to us. I am pretty sure it was a lie. The real issue was that he didn't have the money to get to school and back. That made more sense. 

We met with his teacher who said that he is a bright kid with a very natural talent for art. She showed us some of his work (one of which is the picture below) and said that she was happy with his progress. But then she stops abruptly and says, "But he tunes out the last hour of class. The first hour he is focused but the second hour he seems to get tired. He always starts talking about soccer." We kind of giggled just because we know him so well and how he doesn't like to miss practice. We continued to talk to the lady about some other good and not so good things and how we can help. It was a very positive meeting. The teacher seems really invested in him which I really appreciate. 

A few things stood out to me with both of these meetings: 

1. The boys are naturally quite bright however it is their characters/behaviours that are hindering them. I find this all too true in so many instances around here. In as much as we can help people, if their characters/behaviours don't change, then it's hard to move forward. 

2. More often than not, it is poor teaching that makes kids not to do well. As I was looking through some of the marks of the first boy, I would notice that in some classes, no one got over 40% on a test. You can't tell me that all the students just didn't do well. We also had another boy in high school who got all D's and E's on his exams yet he was ranked 11th out of a class of 60. 

3. Parents/Sponsors/Guardians rarely check up on their kids. I think all the teachers we have met are so appreciative that we come and take time to check in with the kids. Sometimes there are some real issues that need to be sorted out but there is not effort from guardians. I think it also makes them pay more attention to our boys. 

4. Education is so different from the West. Half the time I just smile and nod when I see something I don't like or doesn't make sense to me (and that happens a lot). Growing up a teacher's kid and in a great education system is something that I can't take for granted. 

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