Friday, January 25, 2013

Here we are now, entertain us . . .

The school year is set to start on Monday (and I get to go back to being the crazy/somewhat entertaining white teacher lady). Zach and I will actually be attending a PC conference filled with yearly doctors appointments (yay!) and won't be back until the second week of school . . . which is actually an okay thing as none of my students will actually be there until week two or three. Win.

In the lead up to the first day of school, we have had several "informational" teachers' meetings. One of which was centered around making sure that the school had the correct education level listed for each teacher. This really has no meaning to me as the only impact education level has is on your salary. When we first arrived at the school a year ago, we were informed that we were on the N2 level (N1 being the highest, N4 being the lowest), but no one really explained the system. Even when we were on the N2 level, Zach and I were two of the ten teachers on the N2 level or higher. Out of almost fifty teachers. There is no doubt that some of the teachers who are technically on a lower pay grade than I would be (if the Moz government actually paid me) have much more teaching experience and are great teachers, but it is still difficult to imagine teaching calculus to 10th graders when you only have a 12th grade education. Coming from a schooling system where all of my teachers (that I know of anyways) had at least four years of college and go through what seem to be fairly thorough certification programs, I have been rather perplexed about the required levels of education for teaching in Mozambique.

As it turns out, due to our four years of college, Zach and I are actually N1s. Which means we are 2 of the 4 teachers at our school who have spent four years at a university (it also means that I could be called Senhora Doctora Allison). Some of the teachers I work with really are quite amazing - teaching in Mozambique is difficult and I can't imagine teaching here without some basic teacher training, so their work is all the more impressive. And while I know that going to college is out of reach for many people here - there aren't enough universities and it represents a very large financial burden with very few opportunities for scholarships or any type of financial aid - I just can't help but wonder how students ever sum up the motivation to attend college. How, in a town where 12th grade isn't even offered, does a student even manage to apply to universities that are located in cities they've never visited? I'm guessing that some small, isolated communities in the United States still face some of the same difficulties, but I can't imagine not knowing anyone with a bachelors degree.

I strongly believe that education is and should be one of Mozambique's highest priorities. But what constitutes a good education? Does your chance at a good education immediately fly out the door when class sizes are between 50 to 90 students? Do you have to have teachers with college degrees? Is an eighth grade education sufficient to teach second grade students? What can a country do to get more teachers when there are very few people with bachelors degrees that are willing to teach/live in the sometimes fairly rural communities with secondary schools?

After a year here I definitely don't have anything close to a coherent opinion on the education system here other than, it's complicated.