July 16, 2013

Provincial Exams: Round 2

As I mentioned in my last blog post, last week was provincial exam week: the worst week of the trimester. I went to the school bright and early on Monday morning to find out my proctoring schedule for the week...or so I thought. Turns out the Pedagogical Directors decided to do things a little differently this trimester and post only the day's schedule instead of the week's schedule. This poses problems for a few reasons. One, it is really annoying to have to go to the school every day just to find out that you actually aren't working and shouldn't have left your house in the first place, and two, for the people that don't live in Messica and commute from further away (Manica or Chimoio), they have to come into Messica every day when in actuality they aren't scheduled, so it's an even bigger waste of time and money. The one good thing about the new schedule was that people who were scheduled in the morning didn't work in the afternoons, and vice versa.

At the school on Monday, I learned that I was proctoring in the morning, and had to proctor in the Cambodja where there are 4 classrooms located about a 20 minute walk from the school. I had never had the pleasure of going to the Cambodja, and let me tell you I hope I never get so lucky again. The classrooms there were about the size of my living room in my house with 12-15 desks shoved in them, 3 students per desk, and more students sitting on the floor. The aisles between the desks were hardly big enough for the tiny 9th graders to squeeze through, so I really didn't have a chance. The students were less than thrilled to have the muzungu (white person) proctoring their exam, because I refused to go outside and walk around and talk to the other teachers during the exam, leaving the students to cheat freely. I was also harassed by other teachers for not wanting to leave the room and socialize with them during the exam, but I stood my ground and stayed in the classroom for the duration of the hour and a half test. There was a lot of complaining, but I told them to get over it, and awkwardly paced in the 3 feet by 3 feet space that I had to walk in the room. Regardless of my lack of mobility, there were still some obvious cheaters trying to look at their notebooks under their desks, looking at each others papers, and whispering to each other. I confiscated notebooks, but couldn't really do much about the copying or talking. There was honestly just too much of that for me to try to control.

Tuesday morning, I headed back to the school to check out the morning's proctoring schedule, praying that I wouldn't be on it (especially not in the Cambodja). I was happily relieved when I got to the school when I didn't find my name on the list. I also managed to sneak a peek at the morning schedules for the rest of the week and happily found my name absent from all of the lists. SCORE! I don't know how I escaped with only one day of proctoring, but there will be no complaints from me about that. However, instead of being able to go right back home on Tuesday morning, my Pedagogical Director asked me to stick around to help him count out tests and get things organized, which I gladly spent about an hour doing. After that, I found myself standing around doing nothing and wanting to go home, but unable to leave without telling the Ped. Director who was nowhere to be found. I was standing around with some other teachers talking when two of my students came up to me and asked me to help them with what I assumed was a practice English exam (because their English exam was later that afternoon). I helped them through the second and third pages of the exam, and shortly after went home.

Later that day when Sarah got home from the English exam, she told me that all of her students had cheated on the exam because they had somehow gotten the exam before the test. As I heard that, my heart dropped into my stomach. I looked at the exam and my fears were true: I had actually helped the students with the actual exam. I had given them all of the answers. I couldn't have known beforehand because the first page of the exam was missing, but the crushing realization that my students took advantage of me to cheat was so upsetting. I wanted to cry, wanted to scream, wanted to leave Mozambique because it felt like there is nothing I can do in this country to help. I felt taken advantage of. And I didn't know what to do about it.

I didn't go to the school on Wednesday. I left Messica for Chimoio in the morning, and decided time away would probably be for the better. The central region of Mozambique had a going away party for one of the health volunteers living in Chimoio, Shane, who had completed his 2 years of service and is now heading back to America. That was a nice distraction from the provincial exam mess. Then Thursday through Sunday I was in Maputo for a long and intense conference for JUNTOS that was very good but also extremely busy. (More info to come on JUNTOS; I'll be staying busy for the next year to say the least!)

Sunday night I arrived back in Messica to deal with the mess of provincial exams. I had 4 turmas of tests to grade, and quickly found out that all of my turmas cheated. Out of 150ish students in my ciĂȘncias (sciences) turmas only about 7 or 8 had failing grades, which is quite impossible because on their first test of the trimester only about 20 had passing grades. I also talked to a few of the students in those classes and they told me that there were people in the class dictating the answers to the whole class when the proctoring professor wasn't there.

There were even more problems with my letras (letters) turma because the exam was not printed correctly and almost all of the questions were unanswerable. By the time it was corrected during the exam (the questions were written on the board), the students had about 20 minutes to do the whole 90 minute exam. Everyone in my letras turma failed the test, but that does not mean that they didn't cheat. Almost everyone missed the exact same questions, putting the same answers for everything including the extended response answers.

What. A. Mess.

Today, I went to the school to hand back the tests and talk to the students. In each turma, there were less than a third of the students present. I handed back the tests, telling them the overwhelming amounts of passing grades. I told them I knew that almost all of them cheated and there was no use denying it because it was obvious. Luckily, next trimester we will not have provincial exams, which means I will be writing both tests of the trimester. I told the students that their consequence of cheating on this test is that for both of the tests of next trimester, I will not let them correct their tests. I told them if they really know the material like their scores on the provincial exams suggest, that should not be a problem for them. No one really had anything to say about that. There was no complaining or saying that it wasn't fair, which was a relief. I'm just happy that from here on out I will be proctoring and writing my own tests.

Tomorrow I will be giving two make-up tests, calculating final grades, and turning my grades in. Thursday I'm heading to Chimoio, Friday to Beira for a conference of REDES which is a Peace Corps secondary project for empowering girls in Mozambique, Sunday to Guruso for a conference for writing grants for Peace Corps so I can try to construct a basketball court in Messica, and finally on Wednesday I will be heading up to Gurue to spend a few days with my Peace Corps besties!

July 7, 2013

Quick Update

Things have calmed down considerably for me since my last post, both politically and otherwise.  All of the evacuated volunteers have returned to site, and the situation continues to be monitored by Peace Corps.  

The past two days I have spent mostly laying in bed watching TV shows, not because I'm sick, but just because there's not much else to do (and it's nice after the few weeks of craziness).  This coming week the students will be taking provincial exams.  I haven't been called yet for any sort of assistance from the school, which is both shocking and awesome.  I did kind of hope to proofread the math exam this trimester before it gets printed and handed out with one fifth of the questions so horribly written that they're impossible to answer, but it doesn't look like that will be happening.  Oh well.  

So Monday through Wednesday of this week I will be proctoring exams.  Proctoring exams is the worst, so I am by no means excited about this.  But luckily, the JUNTOS conference is just in time for me to miss half of testing week! I will be heading to Maputo on Thursday and staying until Sunday.  Hopefully I will be able to see my host sister, Nucha while I'm there!

After returning to Messica next week I will have a marathon of grading exams and calculating final grades, then I will be traveling for the last couple weeks of July.  I am so excited!  I don't know when I'll have a chance to update next, so I just wanted say that things are back to normal, and gearing up to get crazy again here soon!  

Keep Mozambique in your prayers, please!

July 1, 2013

Unrest and Stress

I have one word to describe the last week and a half: stressful.

Last Thursday, I heard of some renewed political unrest between the two rival political groups in Mozambique, FRELIMO (the currently governing party) and RENAMO (the opposition). RENAMO was attempting to cut ties between the northern part of the country and the southern part of the country by blockading the one and only road that connects them. They blocked off a huge section of the EN1 spanning from the Save river at the base of Sofala province to the city on the EN6 (the same road that I live on, but about 100 kilometers east of me) called Inchope. Not only is this a huge inconvenience, it is very alarming to all of the Mozambican citizens that lived through the civil war that took more than a million Mozambican lives and ended a short 20 years ago.  Here's some more information on what's currently going on in Mozambique.

In the middle of hearing of all this confusion, I was a little preoccupied because the next morning I had plans to head up towards Malawi, where I would be visiting my friend, Paige, and enjoying my long weekend away from school. I texted the security officer of Peace Corps here in Mozambique and made sure I was still good to travel, and was granted permission to travel. Friday morning, I woke up early, walked to the EN6 and hitchhiked my way up to Tete City in the province of Tete which is directly north of Manica. Upon arriving in Tete, I met up with two other volunteers that live there, walked around, ate a delicious burger, and enjoyed a hot shower and American music videos in our hostel. The next morning, I got up and endured a 12ish hour day of traveling, starting in Tete and ending in Lilongwe with many stops and bus transfers and a border crossing in between. One problem I had that was after arriving in Malawi, it was very hard (and expensive) to get in touch with anyone, so Paige and I had a heck of a time working out plans and where we would meet. We eventually agreed that when I arrived, I would call her and she would come meet me and take me to the hotel. The only problem was that I had absolutely no phone credit to call her and let her know that I had arrived. Luckily I received a text saying which hotel we would be staying in that night, so after arriving at the bus stop in Lilongwe (far after I had anticipated arriving...oh traveling in Africa), I grabbed a taxi to take me to the hotel.

With the help of a security guard of the hotel, I found my way up to the reception desk to ask which room Paige was staying in, and ended up running right into Paige! After sharing a hug that was about 9 months overdue, we put my stuff down in the second nicest hotel room I've seen in Africa, and spent the evening catching up, eating dinner, and I took a glorious and long hot shower. The next morning was Paige's birthday and a Sunday, so we ventured out to find the Catholic church closest to our hotel where we were told mass in English would start at 6 am. When we arrived, we found out church actually started at 8 am. We killed some time and then I enjoyed my first mass in English in 9 months. It was wonderful and refreshing and I was so happy! The rest of the day consisted of shopping around, drinking milkshakes, eating pizza, and making our way back to the health complex (seemed like mini-America to me) that Paige was staying at about 40 kilometers west of Lilongwe. That's where we stayed the next two days, playing with children, reading, and just enjoying each others' company. It would have been all good and fun, except for the fact that all the while my mind was somewhat on what was happening back in Mozambique. Being in Malawi was wonderful, but I couldn't help feeling out of touch and far away. I knew that I was safer in Malawi with the violence going on in Moz, but that didn't stop me from feeling like I should have been back home in Messica, or at least back in Moz. My plan was to leave Malawi on June 25th, which happens to be Mozambique's independence day, but given all of the violence and uncertainty that was happening in Mozambique, I decided with the security officer that it would be better to stay in Malawi the extra day just in case RENAMO would try to use independence day to make some sort of statement.

On the 26th, I left Malawi (happy that I went and happy to be getting back to Moz) and headed back to Tete City. I went back a different way than I came, cutting 3 hours off of the travel time. After crossing the border back into Mozambique, I once again had communication, which was amazing. Soon after, however, I got a text from one of my friends from Tete (who had been consolidated from her site to the city) saying that there was a rumor of violence on the roads in Tete. So though I was happy to be back in Mozambique, there is only one main road in Tete and I happened to be on it. I promptly started praying that I would get to Tete safely. After about 5 hours that seemed like 15 and many police stops, I arrived in the city and made my way to the hostel.

We tried to watch the news and find out any information on the most recent attacks, but one of the things about Mozambique that is most frustrating is the lack of communication within this country. There are so many rumors that get passed around by word of mouth, but you have no idea what is true and what isn't. One of the rumors that we were hearing was that there was some violence that day in Changara, a city that I would need to pass through to get back to Messica. So the fear started once again. The security officer did some research, and though he found nothing, I didn't have a bus ticket, so if I were to have left the following day, I would have had to make a transfer in Changara. I decided that was not a risk I was willing to take, and I bought a bus ticket the next morning for the following day (Friday morning). So Thursday I spent the day in Tete. Thursday evening there were more rumors about shootings in Tete that day in Changara, but I was too tired of hearing rumors that could never be confirmed or denied and too anxious to get back in Messica to stay in Tete any longer. I decided that I was going, and I prayed that I would get home safely.

Friday morning at about 3:30 am I made my way to the bus station and boarded my bus to Chimoio. After an uneventful bus ride, I arrived at the intersection for Messica at about 9 am. I got off the bus and immediately found a chapa to Messica. I was in Messica by about 9:30, and in my house at about 10. Thank you, Jesus!

Oh yeah, and with all of that traveling nonsense going on, I also got word that we officially were still on for my JUNTOS workshop in Messica starting Friday night and going through until Monday morning. So after arriving in Messica on Friday morning, I started rushing around getting all of the last minute things done for the workshop. I spent a lot of time at the school getting supplies organized, getting the rooms situated, and trying to ensure things would go off without a hitch.

Around 4:30 in the afternoon, groups started arriving from Manica, Chimoio, Gondola, and Catandica. There were 30 students in total including our 6 from Messica. The workshop started around 5 or 5:30. Everyone was there on time besides the Messica kids (go figure) and many of the counterparts. The Messica students eventually showed up, but the counterparts were pretty flaky (there were 2 good ones, including mine) and remained flaky for most of the weekend. One of the things that was most stressful was that the counterparts were upset about the conditions at the school (the students were sleeping on the floor on bamboo mats) and they were yelling and saying they were unacceptable, even though they had been informed about the sleeping situation before they came and they were instructed to bring blankets with them. I don't really understand. But luckily one of the mae's from church that I hired to cook for the weekend came to the rescue and offered to take the few girls that came from out of town for the conference to sleep at her house. The Messica students went to their houses to sleep, and then the boys from out of town slept on the floor of the only super secure and warmest room that we have at the school. The counterparts still had things to complain about, but we did all we could to accommodate our guests. The maes did a wonderful job cooking for the weekend and they made everything run smoothly. Besides not having Mozambicans to run most of the sessions, the workshop went well and I think most of the students enjoyed themselves. We ended up shortening the workshop a little bit and ended on Sunday afternoon. After splitting up all of the leftovers among the mae's and paying them (they were so happy they cried), I headed home and went to bed at 7 o'clock.

Overall, I feel like everything that I organized actually went extremely well, but of course there were also complaints. Today I'm using to rest a little bit, and get caught up with my work for school. This week is a review week, then we have provincial exams next week (oh joy), and then I have a conference in Maputo the weekend after for JUNTOS because I will be the new Co-Coordinator of JUNTOS for the central region of Mozambique.

After that, things are still a little confusing because we still don't know exactly going on with the political unrest. I am praying for things to calm down, but honestly no one knows what's going to happen at this point. Can't even believe I've been here for over 9 months.

Prayers are welcomed and appreciated!