school fees

it’s that time of the term again.  the time when students are sent home to search for money.  typically this happens in rounds.  round one is the first day of class.  monday morning i start teaching to the half of the class that made it back on time.  about an hour in, the director appears in the doorway, says nothing, i stop speaking mid-sentence, he saunters to the front with his list and by the time he’s done i’ve got about eight or nine kids left. 

‘what happened?’ i asked the first time.  ‘they’ve been chased’ is the direct translation (i like this translation because it gives the image of the director chasing the students down the hill with a stick).  some of the students do go down the hill, take a bus to the bank, deposit the money and come back that day.  others go home and ask a parent or a wealthy uncle and come back a few days later.  the unlucky batch, by far the majority, loiter around the school because they know they can’t find the money.  the next day they’re back in class. 

two weeks later, round two, same thing.

this term the director’s come down hard on the loiterers.  if a student hasn’t paid, he or she can’t enter the classroom to study or the refectory to eat or the dormitory to sleep.  they do anyway, of course, because other students help them sneak in and out.  if they’re caught, they’re beaten (which is illegal, but secretly happens anyway – amanda actually witnessed it and we were up in arms) or sent home permanently.  one of my students, ernest, in his last term of his final year, chased for school fees and hungry, left campus to buy some food at one of the shops up the hill, was caught and expelled.  i and some other students from his class ‘asked pardon’ from the director, which he promised only on production of school fees, which i then gave him.

unfortunately, he’s one of too many in the same boat.

last week, after round three and the ernest incident, amanda and i decided to do something to help the students from senior three and six, terminal years for lower and upper secondary.  we brought the class chiefs together and amassed a list of the most serious cases.  i’m now asking for money from anyone who wants to give it to help these students get through their last term and take their national exams.  without the exams, they have no hope of university. 

let me know if you think you can help.


~ by aliciawolcott on August 26, 2007.

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