This morning I was invited by some expat friends to go with them to the graduation ceremonies for two of the schools they set up in the countryside outside of N’Djamena. My friends have been living in Chad for decades working for various organizations and are not teachers, but started out by teaching the neighbors kids and slowly their group expanded. Today I saw over 60 kids at one school and nearly 100 at the other. The kids were smart and their French was much better than mine, despite speaking only arabic in their homes.
|Singing about the parts of their bodies|
The school graduation ceremonies were attended by the proud parents and the top three kids from each group were individually recognized and received a gift bag with pencils, a notebook, and other school items. We also tossed in a small bag of candies for each kid. Before the top students were recognized each class gave a small presentation, usually in the form of signing and dancing, a short skit, or by reciting poetry. The first group to present were the smallest kids, maybe four years old, but they could recite the alphabet perfectly and sang songs that showed off their robust French vocabulary (remember that many of their parents could not speak French). Older kids talked about the metric system, the environment, human rights, and other things. The parents were extremely proud of their kids and the moms were ululating as their kids were recognized for their achievements.
|Proud parents & smart kids|
My friends explained that the kids in their schools were more advanced than many in the city because they decided to focus on teaching quality and good treatment of the kids instead of buildings and other things that ate up the meager budget. The first school consisted of a couple short wall buildings with a roof that allowed the breeze to pass through and provided a lot of light. The second school had both the open walled facilities and complete buildings with doors, lights, and fans. The operating budget of the second facility was much higher as they had to pay for electricity and maintain the more expensive buildings. Additionally, the closed in rooms were much hotter as the air could not pass through the buildings (and most days are over 110*F outside with the breeze).
|Handing out the prizes|
Teachers were paid on average 50,000 CFA per month (approximately $100) and were paid year-round as in the summer they would attend teacher professionalization training. The primary requirement to become a teacher was to be literate but over the years as the schools have grown the quality of the teachers also improved. (Imagine how much good $100 per month could do here by paying a teacher’s salary).
|Skit about an educated nomad herding his sheep|
The cost of constructing a simple school building was about $1000 but the need for funding would continue after that for maintenance of the facilities and continuous repairs. My friends said that once they were able to raise the funds they would like to build a wall around the schools, but so far this had been cost prohibitive as walls that are not done right or done cheaply have a tendency to fall down.
The schools were integrated and included kids from the nomadic northern tribes but also the local kids from the south of Chad. It was evident that the kids mixed freely, studied, and played games together. My friends said that working with the schools has been tough but their success was due to the involvement of the parents. The parents made sure the kids made it to school on time, did their homework, and the parents did the extra work around their homes that normally for which they would depend on their kids.