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!


  1. I. Hate. Provincial. Exams.

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