Friday, August 19, 2011

Another Success Story

Violet, who has been doing my laundry and cleaning my house for the past 18 months, has finally been posted at a school! She will teach fifth grade at Mukutuma Basic School in the Lufanyama District of the Copperbelt region.

Violet had completed her teacher training program and was awaiting the results of her performance on the national teachers' examination when I first arrived. A few weeks later, she received news that she had failed--as had 84 of the 89 students in her class. They were invited to register for some remedial classes (with a substantial tuition charge), continue studying, pay another examination fee, and try again.

Violet had been confident that she had passed, since all along she received excellent marks in nearly every subject. She went to the school officials asking to see her results so she could learn what she needed to study. They refused. Adrian, the Chaplain, and I discussed this situation and decided to investigate it. It just seemed unreasonable that the vast majority of students should fail, if the school had been doing its job preparing primary school teachers.

When we spoke with the director of the teacher training school, he told us there had been rampant cheating among the students, and that was why they all failed. This was hard to believe, and certainly out of character for Violet. Not only did the director blame the students, he couldn't explain how this cheating had gotten past the supervision of the exam proctors. In addition, there was no acknowledgement that perhaps the school had prepared them poorly for the examination. Or that any kind of mistake had been made.

It just felt fishy. And as I thought about it, the main person to benefit from this massive failure was the owner of this proprietary private education college, as he now would get more tuition from the students and a second exam fee.

Adrian went to someone who had contacts with the Ministry of Education. He got an appointment for Violet to see this official to explore the problem. When she met with him, she found out that her name was not on the national list of students who had taken the exam. She showed him her documentation, and he said he would call in the school director to find out what was going on.

We still do not know exactly what happened between the Ministry of Education and the school director, but a few weeks later, Violet was told that she had passed the exam and was given an official results document. Then the wait began for posting at a government (public) school.

Before she received confirmation of her posting, Violet signed up for a course run by Kitwe Teachers College (KTC) to upgrade her teaching skills. It meets during school breaks, and then continues with independent study while participants return to their teaching duties or await their posting. KTC is affiliated with the University of Zambia, so we trust there will be no issues around corruption or malfeasance in this education program. Violet is both excited and anxious about being a student again. Mostly she is eager to begin teaching.

Lufanyama is quite a way off the main road, at the edge of the Copperbelt Province. While remote, it has electricity. The community has built a small house for each teacher. Violet commented, after going to visit the place, that if I think I have seen poverty in the compounds surrounding Kitwe, wait until I see the village life. Most of the children do not own a pair of shoes. They come to school barefoot and in ragged clothes. Many will not have a pencil to their name, let alone notebooks, pens or rulers. but they want to learn, and she wants to teach. Transport for Violet to get to a town to shop will most likely be by riding on the back of a truck loaded with lumber or sacks of corn or some other product. Busses only run to the main highway. After that, it is an hour or two on whatever vehicle passes by to reach the village, or from the village back to the highway. She will receive hardship pay because of the conditions.

So, another success story. Violet is employed in the field she trained for and has a calling to do. My new helper for laundry and cleaning is Memory. She just completed teacher training and took the national exam and is awaiting results.

Isn’t this where I came in?

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