the first week of school

Written Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Think about the first day of school in one of your grades in high school…let’s say 10th grade. What did you do? Get locker assignments? Get books? Maybe you went over material in the first chapter of the text book, or perhaps just talked about how summer went in your classes. Did you have homework on the first day in some of your subjects?

Okay, now picture this: It’s the first official day of school and out of the 600 students in your high school, about 40 show up (five or six others will later show up some two hours later with their parents to enroll). The students and staff (that is, of course the teachers and administrative staff that aren’t late) assemble in one of the larger classrooms after singing the national anthem. One of the pastors in your town delivers a brief, inspiring message encouraging you to look to God during the school year. After that, at the request of the school district officials, everyone (students, faculty/staff, present parents) hits the streets in a parade to announce to the town that the school year has officially begun. Then you go home, while the teachers, now back at the school plan out how they want the school year to go.

This was today, the first day of school in my town. As much as I would love to have seen some sort of action taking place in the classroom, that didn’t happen. Instead there was a parade of 40 students or less, and then they went home. The good news is a have a pretty motivated project partner who cares about education in the Dominican Republic and wants to see it elevated and mejorada. So…let’s get to work.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Today about 10 students showed up for class, so there was no instruction time. Even though yesterday, the school principle admonished all the teachers and administrative personnel to arrive on time (7:45am), some of them still came as late as 8:30am. The teachers continued their planning for the year. I wanted to get a copy of the school year calendar (with holidays, etc.), but I couldn’t because the Ministry of Education had not yet sent it out to schools…on day two of the official school year. Tomorrow I won’t be going to the high school, because the teachers are having a meeting to decide whether or not they’ll actually teach during class time (because of money…well, better said, because of continual broken education promises by government officials). If they decide that they won’t, teachers will come to school, but not do anything. This could greatly undercut my efforts to get teachers trained on teaching methodology and technology.

From all sides, the generation of upcoming leaders in the Dominican Republic is receiving the message that education is not important. The education system on this beautiful paradise island is extremely broken. As discouraging as all this is, I keep reminding myself that this is why I’m here. This is the reason why the Peace Corps Education/IT sector exists and is needed in the DR. My encouragement is that the youth in my site (and frankly, I get the impression that the youth all over the DR) are pretty motivated to succeed. My strength and hope are in God.

One thought on “the first week of school

  1. Wow. That is crazy to say the least. And to think the children here in the US have access to good educational systems or at least decent ones and some of them don’t even take the opportunity seriously. I hope that you and your Peace Corp team can make a difference there. Maybe you’ll can share some of these experiences with schools here, in efforts to motivate kids to see how fortunate they are.

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