Sunday, August 2, 2009

More Similar Than You'd Think

In visiting the schools, one of the things that has become clear is that many of the challenges they face are similar, albeit to a greater degree, to those experienced by North American schools.
  • Many children come to school hungry and cannot concentrate on learning.
  • The classrooms are over-crowded, although clearly, 50 students per class represents greater over-crowding than is typical in N.A.
  • There are not enough textbooks to go around, although one book for four or more children represents a greater need than is typical in N.A.
  • There is never enough money from the government, although few North American schools resort to hiring extra teachers paid by the community.
  • Drugs are a concern everywhere.
  • Students must travel great distances to attend school, although few students in N.A. leave home at 5:00 am to walk two hours to school and return home at 7:00 pm.
  • Parents have difficulties paying school fees.

In this area, the main economic activity is fishing. The only education required is enough literacy to read and sign a contract and enough numeracy to count money. The men fish at night and women go down to the shores in the morning to get fish to sell for the day. The fish populations in the lake are getting smaller. Women form relationships with the men who supply them with fish to sell. The men move around a great deal following the fish leading to quite a spread of HIV/AIDS. The result is that many children are orphaned. Many stay with relatives who have little interest in their education.

The biggest difference may be the challenges facing the “girl-child,” or “girl-learner,” in this area. There are great pressures on girls to drop out of school before graduation. Girls are often responsible for helping with meal preparation and bringing water from the lake. These responsibilities make it difficult to be at school on time or to do any studying at home. In looking at the top academic grades at one school, we noticed that the top girl had an average that was 2 letter grades below that of the top boy(C instead of A). Also, parents often do not wish to invest in a girl’s education because they fear she will become pregnant before graduation and waste the investment. A teacher at one of the island schools explained that girls who are sent to collect fish often meet fishermen who give them money for small things they need (sanitary items, food,…). They decide that this is a man who can support them and that they should get married. They leave school and get married as young as 13 years old. I don’t think that girls in 7th grade at home could even imagine a life like this.

Continuing to wrap my mind around how we will help these teachers to help their learners through ICT. Lots to think about. Tomorrow, thoughts on a testing culture

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