Monday, June 22, 2009

The old adage is true

"What a difference a day makes." So true. I was set to go out to outlining schools so I dressed for the occasion. Lightweight hiking pants, with lightweight long sleeve shirt, a tan hat, and insect repellent. When I met our partner who was going to take us, he was dressed in a sport coat and tie. He told me we were going to meet a director of a teacher education program and the Minister of Education for the country of Burundi. So I asked, "should I change?" If you know me, you know I rarely wear ties...let along a sport coat....and it was hot! So I put on my monkey suit. We not only met with the Director and Minister, but we then met with the Minister of Primary and Secondary Education. These meetings really put into perspective what the country is going through. In a word, it is sad. The students in the capital may have 1 textbook for every 10 students. In the outlining areas in the rural schools, the teacher MAY be the only one with a book for a classroom of 100-115 students in a room that is about 40x40.
The one item that was learned was that the Burundian people went through 10 extra years of civil war after the Rwandan war was over. A question I have is why did I only hear about the Rwandan genocide and not the Burundian genocide? In Rwanda the Hutu's were staging war on the Tutsi's. In Burundi it was the other way around.
The Minister of Primary and Secondary education really has a heart for the educational system.
The first problem he stated was not having enough teachers,
The second? The teachers that they do have most are not properly trained in pedagogy.
Another issue are the number of students whom are unable to pass standardized tests in French cannot go on through their formal education; so, Bilingual education is an issue.
Do these items sound familiar? What is exciting about the people that we met, all are interested in trying new things in order to get the children to a point where they can become productive citizens. They are open to technical training (or voc ed) for the students that do not pass their standardized tests. They are open to try new ways of developing children who are functionally literate in two languages! The problem? As always, money and time. However, the people are confident that it will take time, but somehow it will get done.
A colleague shared with me that when people are called to do something for others, God works on that particular person as well. I believe this is true. In just a day I've learned something about myself and the opportunities I have been given through my education and experiences to assist others.
Tomorrow is another day with meeting a person who is very dedicated in developing voc ed programs and/or schools, and hopefully, meeting with teachers and students.

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