The week-end was hot, but it was the first one where I didn’t wake up for the weekly run on Saturday. I was expecting it, as we had our first Korean fried chicken & beer with Caroline the night before, and it had been a long time since I’d drunk that much (yep, 1 Corona and a half, and I was done for haha…).
After a good resting week-end even though too hot, I was very happy to start this entire “Mock exams week”. I could feel the difference in temperature this morning, it was already 24°C when I rode my bike… the day would be suffocating.
This morning, I had the surprise to see 2 new students in the classroom: Chabilo and Richard. They never came at school for the past 2 weeks at least, and here they were. Chabilo is one of the smallest boys, both in age and size, his level was above average, and I saw he could follow-up the lessons and corrections. On the contrary, Richard, the tallest and oldest in the class, seemed to be in a very difficult position. When we were correcting the Social Studies paper I gave back this morning, he simply told me he couldn’t read the question when it was his turn to answer. He didn’t know how to read. Really? In grade 7? I read him the questions and the multiple choices answers, and he answered correctly. During the morning break, Wiseman explained to me the situations of both children. Chabilo was attending 2 different schools, Safe School in the morning, and another school in the afternoon. He was not able to tell me why he couldn’t attend this school the past 2 weeks, and Wiseman didn’t know why neither. As for Richard, his case was much easier to understand but very sad: he was retaking his Grade 7 at already 17 yo, as he didn’t succeed in his graduation last year. However, his father was taking him to work most of the year. It is just my guess, but I believe that Richard education is “sacrificed” in order for his 2 little siblings to attend the school in smaller grades. The parents let Richard come back to class only to try passing the graduation exams once more. But with his level of reading and having missed the class almost the whole year, it is almost impossible for him to graduate though…
After the morning break, we started the 2nd debate theme: “Should a pregnant girl allowed to go to school?”. And when I said last week these kids were passionate, I almost got a riot in the classroom…
And to finish the day, I got a very sad news. A very kind colleague I worked with mostly in Nigeria and saw back in Paris had a cardiac arrest the past week-end and died abruptly at 50 years old. It should remind all of us that life is short anyway, and we should enjoy it as fully as possible, without postponing what we think is important.
Tuesday started invariably with a test, the mathematics this time. It was much easier than the first one we did two weeks ago, and it was confirmed by the correction we did straight away. As the answer sheet is separate, I folded it so as the student’s name and handwriting cannot be seen. Then, I distributed randomly all the answer sheets to the students so we will have a simultaneous anonymous correction! I was very happy with my idea, as it would give an immediate result to the student. The test was much easier this time, and I believe closer to the level of the final exams. All the class got above the passmark (30/60) except one student who was last in the class with 26. Then we corrected the English paper of the day before, with an average of almost 15 out of 20. We followed with the debate with the 3rd theme: “Private schools are better than Public schools”.
The little event of the day was probably that I got a flat tire on my back wheel, on the way back from school. However, I was literally thinking how lucky I was. Indeed, it happened exactly half way, and a few hundred meters further, there was a cycling repair workshop alongside the road! He repaired the punctured air chamber smoothly:
However, on the morning of Wednesday… flat tire again. The leak seemed to be very weak, so I could still re-inflate the back wheel, and did the exercise twice more before arriving to the cycle repair shop 4.5km later… this time, he checked the whole inner tube, bit by bit in the water, and at last, I arrived 40min late at school. They were in the middle of the social studies test. The debate of the day was: “Life in urban areas better than in rural areas?”
As we finished a bit earlier today, I was thinking how to complete the morning session… and I randomly asked: “who heard about the speech called I have a dream? Who heard about Martin Luther King?” I was a bit surprised to see not a single hand up, but thinking back, there were only 13 years old… So I talked a bit about Martin Luther King, and tried to make them listen to the original speech from YouTube through my phone.
After that, we did a short dictation where I made them wrote a part of the speech:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: « We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. »
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!
And then, what happened? The students asked me: “and what about the sentence with the little boys and girls holding hands?” Ouah… they had been able to retain this part from the speech! No problem, it’s the next sentence:
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of « interposition » and « nullification » — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
And we ended 30 minutes late, but I believe they were happy about this new learning.
The day after, some prepared their own speech about their dreams…
On Thursday morning, I was relieved to see my bike was all good and I arrived on time at school. The morning test was about the technology and creative studies, and the students were not comfortable with this one. Me neither… they were several sections, amongst which do-it-yourself, needle work, and music. I learnt that in Zambia, even though we were in an English speaking country, they were taught the notes with their French name, do-ré-mi-fa-sol-la-si-do, and some knew the corresponding letters C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. I seized the opportunity to remind it to all of them, and I learnt the English translations for Ronde = Whole note and Blanche = Minim. In addition to G clef that is called Treble clef and F clef Bass clef.
It had been almost 3 weeks that I was seeing the kids, mostly the girls, writing some kind of cute letters, folded as an origami. Again, as we were the day before the last, I launched a workshop where one of the girls taught the whole class (and myself!) how to fold the A4 letter paper, and they were given 30 minutes to write a letter to one of their classmates. I told them that I would collect them, and these would be delivered only on the graduation ceremony. As some were quicker than others to finish their letter, I told them that a letter for their director, who was their homeroom teacher the whole year, would probably be highly appreciated!
Then we ended with the last debate, which was actually more a discussion as there was no statement: “How to reduce child abuse?”. It was a bit frightening to see these young kids providing the definition of child abuse and the 4 different types of abuse. However, the discussion was today very good still, and we ended the series of debate with this.
On the way home, I stopped for the first time to one of the local chained fast food restaurant “Simply Asia” located in almost all the local malls.
I stopped at the shopping mall mostly because I was also thinking that I wanted to give to the classroom something for their exam week. It was easy to find, as along the last 3 weeks, I was seeing them cutting their pencils with razor blade (!), some didn’t have pencils at all, and let’s not talk about the erasers…
Then the last day arrived. It was a smooth Friday morning, we (with Wiseman) gave back all the remaining tests and corrected the Science paper that was the least good of all. There was a question on the planets, and they also had their mnemonic sentence. And I shared of course the French one I learnt decades ago and that was still in my memory:
Once the long test corrected, we listened to the volunteers for the graduation ceremony speech or poem I asked them to perform per duet:
Then, I had the nice surprise to assist to the farewell presentation of Grade 7 class. Ahead of next week ceremony, this was an internal one, only with the students and teachers, and I felt like it was also a thank you gift to me specially. I didn’t know they were preparing it for the last couple of weeks. It was hugely emotional and I couldn’t believe how this classroom and myself bonded so much in 3 weeks only. I couldn’t imagine how Wiseman must be feeling, he, who took this whole class to this level, teaching them the whole year and seeing them growing the past 7 years.
I’ll see them again for a farewell drink in one week ☺️
Next week, I will start my last 4 weeks in Zambia with the Grade 4!