Organizing a Mozambique School

Hi everyone! I am doing well, getting into the grove of teaching (which is a lot harder than it sounds) and finally settling in. It almost feels like home away from home.

The school system here sucks, to put it nicely. I can’t remember what I’ve already told everyone so I apologize for being redundant but it astonishes me how disorganized my school is. Just about every school is different so not all schools take two weeks to actually make a set schedule of classes. I’ve heard there are some schools still without schedules (teachers are just running into an empty classroom and it’s a free for all). And other volunteers have said that their school started right on time and they have to adhere to a strict curriculum. Thankfully, after the first two weeks of teaching, I am still teaching English to 11th graders but my roommate was switched to teaching English to ninth grade after spending two weeks teaching eighth grade.

So, what did I do for the first two weeks? Basically made up lessons and struggled to see what level the students are at. Did I also mention that I am teaching 20-30 year olds? If I can overcome the students giving me sass about how young I am and gain their respect, I am pretty sure I can overcome anything.

Let me explain the way the school day is set up. The day is divided into three sections; morning, afternoon and night. Morning is for grades 8-10 and afternoon is for grades 11 and 12. Night is for anyone who has to work during the day as well as any pregnant girls because they are not allowed to study with the rest of the students. There are 6 periods in each section and each subject is divided up differently. For English in the 11th grade, each turma has one single (45 min) lesson and two dupla (90 min) lessons. But all the other subjects, biology, chemistry, physics, Portuguese, drawing, philosophy, physical education, etc. will have a different schedule. It actually amazes me they are able to figure out a schedule in the first place. Also, each turma (turma = class) is assigned a classroom and the teachers move instead of the other way around. I actually like this because there is a lot less chaos and students are almost always on time. But the downside is they tend to get restless a lot faster.

So after finally getting a set schedule (which I heard is probably going to change this week – which is week 4 of teaching) I get told I am being given another turma. So all in all, I teach 15 classes a week which adds up to about 7 hours a week which is a whole lot less than any other teacher. Even so, it is exhausting. I recently went over the simple past, present, and future grammar and asked each turma to write about what they wanted to do after 12th grade. Over half of them cheated but the ones who did not surprisingly want to go to college to be a doctor or teacher. So for the ones that cheated, I yelled and became mean and gave them all zeros. I asked them to write me another composition about whatever they wanted. Some chose Samora Michel (the first president of Mozambique) others chose pollution and one student even wrote a letter of his undying love for me (I’m learning all these lessons the hard way) and that is the last time I will give them an unstructured composition.

In most of their other classes, showing up and sitting there memorizing their notes is enough to pass the class. And these kids are fantastic at memorizing things. They can spit back definitions of adjectives and words like I have never seen but they have no ability to apply their knowledge and no ability to be creative. I asked them to help me write a story about what Michael Jackson (he is huge over here) does every day but they just sat there and stared and the best they could come up with was “He wakes up, he eats breakfast and he goes to the studio…..”

I think one thing that will be the hardest to figure out will be how to get the students to think on their own and be confident that their ideas are good ones. And also the million different ways they have figured out how to cheat. THAT I will have to turn into a game for myself and start keeping a whole notebook of who does what because if I could get them to apply their creativeness that they use to cheat to class itself, then I might actually be able to teach them something.

We had the head of security visit us this past weekend. That was wonderful because he came bearing packages from down south so it was like Christmas in February. We recently bought chickens (who have been way more trouble than we anticipated) and as far as I know Peace Corps forbids us from owning livestock but he just smiled and said “I hope your dog doesn’t eat them.” Which honestly, has been a problem because our dog, Hurley has been experiencing only child syndrome. It’s not like we pay any attention to the chickens except to chase them out of the garden but if we even walk near them he becomes jealous and starts attacking them. We’ve started spraying/dumping water on him (which my neighbors find hilarious seeing us run after our dog with a bucket of water and chucking it at him) which is working but not as fast as we would like. If you have any ideas, let me know!

I’ll wrap up with a funny story: A couple of weekends ago we went to our neighbor’s son’s 1st birthday party. It was great because we finally got to get out of our house (even though their house is only two houses down from ours) and socialize a little. The food was great, finally got to eat some chicken since we have gone vegetarian (not entirely by choice but I am not willing to kill a chicken or cow before I want to eat it) and they even had beef speedies! After the dinner it was getting late and all of a sudden 4 nuns pull up to the house and get out of their car. Everyone goes silent and my neighbors hand each of them a plate of food and one nun gets the birthday boy on her lap. Everyone is still silent. The nuns start eating and I was not sure what is going on or what we should do. I even feel a little guilty with a beer in my hand and to affirm my feeling one nun looks up from her plate and as I smile, she glares at me. Sooo at this time, I look at my neighbor and we simultaneously get up and just leave. We still do not understand why the nuns were there or if they had a significant religious meaning since my neighbors are not even Mozambiquen. They recently moved here from the Congo. 

None the less we were the only ones who left and I managed to ask my other neighbor why the nuns were there and she only replied “they were hungry.” I guess that is one way to end a party…

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