12 February 2010


10 February 2010

In class today I was working on helping the students to write an essay in English for the test at the end of college (junior high). Last year we had about 30 students take the BEPC, only 9 of them passed. It’s not just because of English, it’s a multi-subject test over several days; last year the school didn’t have a science or a math teacher. I’m hoping that this year will have much more success – the professors we have now are all fantastic and motivated and we’ve acquired 3 new professors so we have the full complement (except for English, which is why I’m still around).

I checked out a bunch of old English BEPC tests and put together a guide for success writing the essay. I handed out the guides to my 3eme class (the class that will be
testing at the end of the year). We’re working our way through each type of question. Today we worked on the prompt:

Describe a member of your family you like very much.

(Yes, the prompt is slightly awkward – I took it directly from a past exam. It’s shocking how many faults there are on this nationally administered exam)
We broke down the different important elements: writing sentences describing the person’s age, appearance, family relationship, likes and dislikes, etc. Finally, what I found most interesting, were students’ sentences about why they liked this family member so much.

A selection:

I like my mother because she gave me life and takes care of me.
I like my mother because she gives me money to go to school everyday.
I like my father because he pays my school fees.
I like my father because he gives me money to buy beans at school.

They made me think about how so many kids don’t go to school here. Their labor is too necessary to spare them to go to classes, plus playing the school fees. So parents being generous enough to send their children to school is truly something special.

My pastor friend Koffi receives a salary from the church of 15000 CFA per month – that’s less than a dollar a day for those of you who are counting. Most people do not have salaries; they live according to the sales from their fields. Being able to put aside enough money to pay school fees and send your kids to school with enough money to buy breakfast is almost a luxury here. I read a study once that indicated that in rural areas in the developing world illiterate parents are more likely to send their children to school than semi-literate parents. There’s a sense that they were missing out on something really good and want to make sure their kids get a chance to have an education.

I think I just want to say thank you to all those parents, in Togo, in Africa, in America who place value on their kids’ education no matter what their circumstance. It’s an amazing gift.

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