Hello to you all! How are you doing? I am seeing reports on CNN about a bad oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Is there anything exciting going on in the US?
As you may or may not have guessed from the title, I thought I would write about education here in South Africa. While the word "math" is spelled the same here, people pronounce the word as "mats." When many African languages are written using English letters, the "th" is often pronounced as a "t."
But anyway, the school that I help teach at two days a week is a small farm school with about 25 students. My village was built by a timber company to house the workers; the company also built a school so that the workers' children could go to school. Because the school is so small, it would not be cost-effective to send many teachers there. There aren't enough teachers, it seems. So, the two teachers at the school split the children up into groups. There are kids from grade R to grade 7 (about 13 years old).
As many people here in SA will tell you, the education system is in very bad condition. I was really amazed by this fact: the level of passing for every subject except one is 40%. Anything above that and the child will pass the course. In English, the passing threshold is 30%. So, the standards here are extremely low and yet many children do not pass their classes.
One big reason for this, as I have seen and heard, is that education from 4-7 is done in English. For a students this presents a very big problem: if you are not very good at English, you would have no chance at the other subjects, especially math. Many of the children can hold basic conversations in English--this is easy to practice. But conversations and vocabulary about math? Who does that? So, math comprehension is not what it could be. The same goes for many of the other subjects.
While the language barriers are very tough, I think that the greatest barrier to education (at least in my village) is an economic one. I have seen several schools here and many of them have ample resources for their students. My school, on the other hand, does not have much money or resources.
So what does one do at a school like this? At this point I am still thinking about what I can do or achieve here. While I can teach the students here and help them pass their tests, the goal of a PC volunteer should be to implement sustainable change. At this small school, finding a sustainable project will be very difficult. I'm sure I will write more about teaching here, but for the time being, I'm trying to get the students to khrema (memorize) their times-tables. It is a good review for me as well!