Census and Just My Life

By Savannah Swanner | Aug 13, 2012
Paskilia begging to help me organize...at least that's what my own interpretation of her Swahili :)

This past week has been pretty ordinary.  At least as close to ordinary as you can get in Africa.  Currently in Tanzania the ten-year census is occurring.  The census here is a watered down version of the census during Mary and Joseph’s time, which took them to Bethlehem.   In Tanzania, all schools are forced to close for 35 days to allow the teachers and school staff to go back to their hometowns.  The “censor people” come to visit each home at nighttime to count the number of people in each home, hence the need to have 35 days to accomplish such a huge task!  In America, I know that most kids would happily rejoice for a month’s random vacation from school, but here most of the Angel Secondary students do not seem to be overly thrilled.  This is mainly because national exams are coming up in October and November.  To have a month’s break means they are a month behind in preparing for their exams.

The Tanzanian school system has national exams that must be passed after Form II and Form IV (equivalent to 10th and 12th grade).  The passing rates of these national exams are remarkably low across Tanzania.  There are several reasons behind these low passing rates.  The first reason being that the importance of school is not always recognized in some communities.  Many of the villages need children to work on the shamba (farm) or to help take care of their siblings.  Girls in particular are held back from school to assist with family matters.  Another factor behind low-test scores is the poor quality of schools.  Before Angel Secondary was created, the students from Angel House were going to a secondary school in town.  Sometimes there would be one teacher to teach all four grades.  The students often received one lesson in one subject and were then told to go work in the teacher’s shamba for the rest of the day.  This was one of the main reasons Angel Secondary was opened.  Through Angel Secondary, GrassRoots could provide quality education to not only Angel House students but also to other students in the community.  Finally, in my opinion, one of the biggest reasons students do poorly on the national exams is because their English is not at the level it needs to be.  The government primary schools (or elementary schools) are all taught in Swahili but then once students go to secondary schools all their classes and exams are taught solely in English.  Therefore, the students have until the end of Form II (two short years) to learn enough English to pass a national exam that is testing their knowledge on a subject, yet the test questions are all in English.  Many of the students fail not because they do not know the material but because their English is not good enough to understand the questions.  I realize that may be more information than many of you wanted, but that was all to say that many of the Angel Secondary students are not happy with the long break from school.  With exams right around the corner, the students need all the classroom time they can receive in order to pass the exams.  If students do not pass their Form IV exams, then they must go back to Form II to start all over!

To circumvent this problem, Angel Secondary has started teaching “tuition.”  For two weeks during the census, classes are being taught at another school.  Students do not have to go to tuition but are definitely encouraged.  Rachel and I are definitely enjoying the break.  We are able to focus a little more on the things we feel most called to do.  Rachel has been going to Angel House to help teach the primary kids as part of their tuition.  Rachel and I both have also started teaching a typing class to the Angel House secondary students.  I have also been doing other odds and ends, but my main priority has been to organize the dispensary.  After several trips to town and several days of organizing, I finally have the medicines organized and ready to use!  I have also started the Daniel Fast, which is a pretty awesome study Long’s Chapel SNL is doing throughout the next two weeks.  Although I am not doing the fasting part (I don’t have much choice on what I eat here) I am doing the readings.  God has definitely been moving and directing me in many ways this first week, so I am excited to see what He has in store for me this week.  Nothing overwhelmingly exciting but just a little update anyways!

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