Somehow, I managed not to get bitten by the education bug like so many of my family member and friends. As an education volunteer I am here to help the school run better, and teach people how to perform their roles better. I am not a teacher! I could not reiterate this statement enough times over the past year. Just when I thought everyone in my village got it, school started and somehow confused everyone again. I can’t remember how much I have written about the education system in Mali, but to say the least it’s flawed. First of all the children are being inconsistently taught in two languages. Secondly they really aren’t learning anything, unless you consider copying and memorizing so they don’t get beat learning. The government has created many groups, and organizations to benefit the education system, but has yet to provide any money.
The school in my village hardly has enough books to meet the needs of half the students per class. This school kicked off with the first week being spent cleaning and reorganizing the classrooms, and cutting the grass. A good and bad thing I suppose, because we only had four out of six teachers show up, so the those students would have just been hanging out anyway. The second week of school I thought it would be great to stop in and visit each classroom, see how things are going, hoping to see some teaching being done. I walked over to the school only to find all the teachers in a “meeting.” (meaning drinking tea) Why would I think the teachers needed to be doing their jobs, its only the second week of school-they have lots of other time to work! I was told to check in on the first graders and sit with them until the end of the meeting.
I walked into the first grade classroom and was confronted by 64 dirty little smiling faces, excited to learn, and write in their brand new (hand-me down) notebooks. After greeting them all, and sitting down, they wanted to know what I was going to teach them. Now, keep in mind, these children have never been to school before, they don’t know how to identify letters or numbers; they can’t read, write, or even hold a pencil. I do the only thing I can think of, I draw lines and circles on the board and have them count, only up to 5 because after that, they get confused. Well one can only count to five so many times in an hour, and once the children realized I wasn’t really going to beat them with the stick I was using as pointer things got quickly out of control! I made a run for it when children were standing on desks and jumping out windows to pee in the field! After sticking my head in to interrupt the teachers’ “meeting” telling them “I’m NOT a teacher!” I ran to the welcome peace and quiet sanctuary of Tenna’s cooking hut. Everyday for the rest of week I couldn’t conjure up the courage to make another appearance at the school for fear of being put in front of another out of control class.
Maybe next week I’ll venture back to the school…