Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Our Liberal Arts Secondary School

This year continues to be a year of firsts in concern to Angel Secondary. Maybe they are routine things for many of our teachers and students, but for those of us who did not grow up in the Tanzanian education system there is a surprise around every corner. Last week we had our first cluster examinations, exams where you go in with four other schools for testing. Following the cluster exams was a “friendly” day of games with one of the other schools in the cluster. Raybu is a school who just finished winning the district soccer tournament and sent 6 of their players to the regional team. They also have almost five times the number of students that we do. It was guaranteed to be an interesting day. It was on this day of games that I realized that we have a liberal arts high school.

I showed up at Raybu, some of our students were already there and some were on their way with the last bus trip. I immediately headed for some tents I saw our students setting up to shade themselves from the sun while watching the soccer and netball (kind of like basketball and ultimate Frisbee mixed together) games between the schools. One of the first things I noticed was how many students were wearing Raybu colors and how many students were wearing our colors. The next thing I noticed is the language. Secondary education in Tanzania is supposed to be English only, Tanzania’s second national language. I knew though, that many secondary schools still allowed students to speak Kiswahili and some teachers even taught in it. This DOES NOT happen at Angel Secondary, and I thought that with Raybu being one of the best government schools around maybe they would uphold that standard as well. Instead I found almost all of the students from Raybu speaking Kiswahili and many of the teachers. This may sound trivial, but language and communication are a mark of education here just like they are in America.

At the end of the day Raybu had won in soccer, had won in netball, and have even beaten us teachers in volleyball. However, all of the games were close, 2 points or less, and the look on their faces when our headmaster suggested an English debate for the next competition was priceless. It was at that moment that I was the most proud of our school. Not because we had found the thing we could win at, but because I realized while we are not bad at sports we will probably never be great either, because our focus is right where it needs to be…on education and the places it can take you. 

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