Thursday, September 18, 2014

Back to Sukulu

School (sukulu) started on Monday, September 8th in Malawi. The first week of school here is a bit different than the first week in an American school though.

The school system here consists of Primary Schools and Secondary Schools. Primary Schools go from Standard 1-8, which is the equivalent of Grades 1-8 in the U.S.  Secondary Schools go from Forms 1-4, which is the equivalent of Grades 9-12. In order to progress to Form 1, a Standard 8 student must pass an exam at the end of year. In order to progress to Form 3, a Form 2 student must pass the Junior Certificate Examination (JCE). These exams are taken in July.

So there we were, first week of school, and there were no Form 1 nor Form 3 students at school. Why? Because they had not received their results yet, so they didn't know if they had passed to the next grade. Apparently this is typical, so it is expected that there are no classes for those grades the first 1-2 weeks of the term every year. Thus losing those weeks of valuable instruction.

For Form 2 and 4, which will be taking certificate exams at the end of this school year, there were classes the first week. However, things weren't quite running at full speed.  Only about half the students showed up the first day. There was a lot of school cleaning going on, and end of term examinations were returned to the students. Some class periods did not have instruction as the teacher time tables with subject allocations were still being finalized. Then we had a staff meeting that first Friday in the middle of the day. I'm not sure if the students went home early or what.

Since I am teaching Form 1 Physical Science and Form 3 Biology, I had no classes that first week. So what is a Form 1 & 3 teacher to do? Plenty! I reviewed my course syllabi and prepared my Scheme of Record, which is my teaching plan for the term. This is required for all subjects. Then I started working on my first lesson plans.

So that was my first week of school. On Friday, September 12th the certificate examination results were released, so Form 1 and 3 classes were ready to start the following Monday. Stay tuned for a separate post about my first week of teaching.

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