End of the School Year and More
School Finished -
After a short third trimester filled with holidays, the school year finally ended. I'm not sure whether it went fast or took forever. The third trimester was probably the most difficult because it was so hot (well over 100 every day), because the students were ready to finish, because I was ready to finish, and because I was teaching reproduction to a couple of my classes. While it can occasionaly be entertaining, for the most part it is very difficult in the upper classes because they never stop laughing and giggling or asking ridiculous questions. Keeping order in the class was just a lot more difficult. Also, I finished up with the program for my troisieme class (the highest class that has to take an national exam to continue to high school). The biology program is very long and almost no one finishes on time. I had to print out the notes for the last subject (microbes and diseases) so that I could finish. I also had to kick out about half the class because they were too disruptive. I also had one particularly dramatic encounter with one student in that class in which I took his cahier (notebook) for the class. The student (Serge - I hate that name by the way) had a watch or a calculator or a cell phone with an alarm on it that went off during the class. Normally when something like this happens, I take whatever it is that made the noise and then if they 'demande pardon' (ask for forgiveness) I give it back to them the next day. This kid didn't want to give it up. I was having a bad day so I told him to give it up or not come back to my class. He didn't want to give it up, so as he was leaving I took the print-out I had just handed out that day with the notes for the rest of the class as well as his biology notebook. A word on the notebooks - they are the textbooks for the class. Most of my students do not have a biology textbook at all. When I teach the class, what I am doing is helping these kids to write a biology textbook and to explain it at the same time. The students are very possessive, rightly so, of these notebooks. But it was the only way I could really punish the student. I can't take points away from a troisieme student because it doesn't matter if he passes the class or not. If he passes the national exam, the grades during the school year do not matter at all.
Taking the notebook shocked the class and the student. After he finally left (after telling me forcefully that he wanted his notebook), I gave the notebook to the directrice of the school, fully expecting one of the other students to tell him that she has the notebook. Then all he would have to do would be to go talk to her to get the notebook back, although he would never come into my class again (i think he was also permanently kicked out of the math and the french class as well). He refused to take his notebook back. He decided he could do without it, solely for spite I'm sure. Good luck to him.
Also in school we have been giving the BEPC Blanc (the BEPC is the national exam, the BEPC Blanc is a practice exam, kinda like the PSAT). For the first one, 3 out of 77 students passed. For the second one, 4 students passed. This seems shocking, but it turns out the numbers were about the same last year when they had about 60 kids pass on the actual BEPC (thats with the second try; if you fail the first try but almost pass you can take a second exam only on math and french to try and pass; we only tested the first try in our tests; generally the BEPC Blance is harder than the actual BEPC). By comparison, all the other volunteers I've talked to never had more than one student to pass their BEPC Blancs. But they are all en brousse (in the bush). In the cities, where there are a lot of functionnaires (rich middle class people), a much higher percentage passes. We'll see. They took the test last week, hopefully I'll see a copy of it when I get back. The results should come back in about a week.
In addition to all that jazz, I got observed by an official from the ministry of education. They sent out a guy to observe all the biology teachers in the area and as I am the only biology teacher at my school, he observed me talk about bees to my 5eme biology class. He said he enjoyed the class and that I used a more interactive method of teaching than he normally sees, but he didn't really grade me as he would a burkinabe teacher since I'm not a burkinabe teacher. He did get a little miffed that I didn't follow exactly the official program for the class (i thought learning about insects was more important than learning about ferns, which they don't have in Burkina). But it went well.
The end of the year also saw the endless task of grading and filling in the gradebooks and then a little party at the end of the year for the teachers and the staff. Overall, we had a little more than half the kids pass the 6, 5, 4eme classes. Pretty standard. The results for the 3eme are to come.
My Parents Visited -
After stressing about coming here and getting sick, my parents did eventually take the plunge and visit glorious burkina faso (arguably the most unrecognized country around - burkina what?). They came for a short visit, arriving the 10th from a week in France and leaving the 14th. We spent two nights in my village and then a couple days in Ouaga before they left late the night of the 14th. As far as I can tell they really enjoyed their stay - i.e. they did not get sick. They got to meet most of the people I know in town (although they missed out on the air conditioner repair man) so that was good. Salif gave them a gift of a little wooden african man clothed in traditional fabric as well as adding a couple shirts later. We handed out photos to salif and to my colleagues at work. I got my dad a shirt made, although it didn't quite fit. Back in Ouaga, they got to meet most of the other volunteers from my group. They took them out to dinner at the hotel they were staying at - Hotel Libya, built by Qaddafi. Its the nicest hotel in the country. It was like being in america. All the volunteers were very appreciative. Then they purchased some souvenirs and antiques the last day at the artisans' village, thanks to the help of Tyeliah's expert negotiating skills. And then they left. Bonne route mom and dad and thanks for coming.
I got cleaned up -
I had my mid service medical exam after they left. I got a tuberculosis test, I got my teeth cleaned, I got checked for testicular cancer, and I gave three stool samples. So far so good, but I am still awaiting the results for my stool samples (judging by the fact that all the other volunteers have at least one type of gastr0-intestinal disease, I'll expect to hear that I have giardia or amoebas shortly). My dental cleaning was done by a burkinabe lady who had studied in Senegal and France (there are no dental schools in Burkina). She is probably the nicest dentist I have ever used. Not once did she criticize my dental hygiene or make a comment about the neccesity of flossing - a first in my dental history. It was so great to leave the office not feeling ashamed or defensive.
Anyways, thats about all for now. More to come later. I'm going to Ghana in about a week for a little over a week. It should be fun. I'll let you know. Later.