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Against the odds…

I read this article about education in Africa this week: www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22171299/. Perhaps education always catches my attention because I’ve spent the majority of the years of my life in school or perhaps because I’m about to sign myself up to go to school for another year so that I can spend the rest of my life in the classroom (as a teacher). Aside from my own experiences with education and all the days as a child I vowed I would never like school, I think there’s something important in stories like this.

The article discusses the challenges faced by African schools. One particular school in Chiseka, Malawi is taking up the challenge of successfully education a generation of children in a country where under 30% of children complete a primary education and where even fewer attend or graduate high school. They are “saving a generation that is growing up with hardly any education” and they are making progress by employing passionate teachers, engaging students in what they’re learning and involving parents. They still face challenges, but it’s wonderful what they’re doing and the progress they’re making seems incredible to me. The somewhat ironic part about this article, I thought, is that these people are so proud and so thankful for a system that, despite its many improvements, still has an incredibly far way to go; it seems like baby steps are key. If I had children, I’m sure I’d be at least a little hesitant about putting them into a school that graduated only 40 out of the 340 students who started primary school.

The differences in the goals of the North American education system and this African education system were incredible to me too. According to the article, the aim of their education “isn’t to produce doctors or engineers” but simply to teach everyone the basic reading, writing and arithmetic that they would need to have a decently paying job. Again, it seems baby steps are key. How many of us in North America grew up under the great aspirations of our parents for us or have great aspirations for our own children?

It’s funny isn’t it? This school in Malawi is thankful to graduate any students at all and thankful that they have the basic skills they need. Our culture see graduation from high school and even from college or university as a necessary prerequisite for “success.” Is this just another way there is a gap between “them” and “us” that needs to be addressed or are we creating this gap by drawing attention to it?

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On a totally different note: Merry Christmas! May you and your family be able to take this time to be thankful and to rest!

Until next time…

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