Thursday, April 06, 2006

Last week the Peace Corps required all of us to get a vaccination for
the avian flu. There actually isn't a real vaccine for that specific
flu yet so they just ended up giving us the newest American flu shot.
I thought that would be the only effect that this strange illness had
on me but as it turns out once one person is infected with the illness
in Tanzania then all 140 of us volunteers will be medically evacuated
back home to the USA. It is true that chickens run wild in my village
and in most areas where PCVs serve but I really don't think they pose
as big of a threat as PC is making it out to be. Anyways, there is a
very good chance of us getting sent home so most of us are in denial
about the whole situation and planning how or if we can stay here and
finish our terms if we get med vaced.

Back in the village things are normal. I gave my first chemistry test
2 weeks ago to have all 30 of my students cheat on it including the 3
smartest ones that I give free tutoring to. I was very unhappy to
find one of my smartest students copying the information directly from
his notebook when I walked around the room to see if they were done
with the test. Normally around half of my students cheat on my tests
but I never thought an entire class would. I later discussed what
happened with my fellow teachers to find out that most of them cheated
their way thru high school too! I also talked to my fellow PCVs to
find out that it is common in their schools too. One year so many of
the students cheated on their national exams that the ministry of
education canceled all of their scores for the entire country for that
year. I wouldn't make a big deal out of it since I knew a few
students when I was in HS that cheated but they get used to it at a
young age and then continue it in their professional careers and it
hurts the whole society. For example, at a school close to mine,
where a fellow PCV teaches, the Japanese govt gave the principal of
the school a substantial amount of money to build a girls dormitory
for the school and the TZ govt promised to provided beds for the dorm
once it was built. A few years later the dorm has been started to be
built however, the principal of the school stole half of the money and
was promoted and now works at another school. The principal was also
not paying his teachers regularly and instead pocketing the money for
himself and building a huge house for his family. The Japanese
recently visited the school to see what was going on. They were very
disappointed and I doubt they will ever undertake such projects here
again. This stuff happens in the USA I am sure but the problem is
that it happens all the time here. As a result, money and donated
goods only sometimes reach their intended audience. I have also
discovered how many help organizations are really businesses. That is
a another blog entry!
As a punishment I am making my chemistry students write a 1500 word essay on what their future career plans are and how cheating will help them. I am letting them write it in Kiswahili so it shouldn't be hard for them. I am also giving them a Tazanian punishment which means for two hours, different days of course, they will have to cut the grass around the school with their dull cutters!
I have seen or heard about everything at my school: female and male teachers rapeing students, teachers beating students for no reason other than to let off steam, and other cruel things but last week I was very suprised to see that now they are making the students beat one another! We have had a problem, like most schools do, when it comes to lining up for lunch and other meals. The students are only fed a tasteless dough like substance, ugali, along with tasteless beans but they are so hungry they fight each other to get their food! So now to keep them in line they let one sophmore student beat them if they don't wait for their food patiently in a line! I asked my pricinpal about this and he said that they are tired of beating the students, which is hard for me to believe, and they also don't want to miss their lunch in order to keep them in order. I once told my students that they should designate one student in each class to do their homework, carry their books for them etc and if those few students don't do their work they should beat that student and make them do it so they don't all get beat. They were not fond of it at all but they don't seem to mind that they are no beating each other now.