Thursday, May 29, 2014

Chaotic End of School Year

Where to begin? The third term is primarily for the final exam, and is only one month long.  Not much happens, except for exams, and it is difficult to teach even review classes without a hundred interruptions and distractions and disturbances.  Students are literally climbing the walls outside of the classroom.  The last week of school the teachers are finalizing their marks and having meetings and discussing who gets promoted and who doesn't. Meanwhile, the students are straining against their chains, yearning for the freedom of the long holiday, becoming bolder by the hour, and getting exponentially antsier each day.

The way the marking works is that each class has a "Class Master," whose job it is to compile the marks for one class, and calculate averages, totals, etc. It is a tedious job, especially when done on a spreadsheet. By hand. When the final marks are calculated, they are recorded in individual report card books. I am the "Form II Middle" class master and in charge of recording all their marks on the Master Sheet, though their chemistry, biology, physics, geography, French, English literature, English language, history, computer, religion, food and nutrition, calligraphy, integrity, and labor teachers all have to record their own marks in the report card books.

After all that was (mostly) complete , the marks were discussed at a meeting called the "Class Council. " During Class Council, the staff eventually decided to promote practically every student regardless of performance, because bringing in school fees through enrollment is a concern and if a student is asked to repeat, the parents will take their school fees elsewhere, at a school that will place their child in the next level.

The teachers were then set to the task of finishing filling out the report cards and preparing them for distribution. This requires a perfect storm of conditions, and if one condition isn't met, it causes a cascade of delays and disturbances. So, if the office printer is on the fritz and the computer lab key is with another teacher that has gone off campus, well, you'll just have to wait to get something printed and copied. Or, if the principle is not around because he's at a funeral for another priest, even if you're all finished with your tedious recorded-by-hand marks, you still have to wait for him and his pen, so he can sign all the report cards before they are removed from the books.

We ended up working late into the night attaching letters to report cards and removing report cards from the stacks when the student owed fees or library books. It was a fun time, laughing and working and spending time with the die-hards, but an exhausting time. Really it was the calm before the storm of the total chaos of the following day.
The whole next morning was a flurry of students running around and lugging trunks, teachers running around looking for more staples and calling for specific students, vendors selling snacks for the road, buses and taxis coming and going, teachers surrounded by throngs of grabbing hands as they try to orderly distribute report cards.

Then the panic set in. So-and-so didn't get her report card because she didn't turn in a library book, and she returned all her books, so it must be a mistake, and the bus for Yaounde is leaving and she needs to get on, and where is the library madam, because it is surely an error? Or, the bursar says I have not paid my fees, but I gave my money to Mr. So-and-so. Or, I paid for space for my trunk on the bus, but the list does not indicate my trunk. 

Six hundred students had a thousand complaints and crises, and they were handled all at the same time in a throng of students eager to make payments or clear up misunderstandings in the bursary. There were many students who discovered that returning SOME but not all library books is not truly sufficient to cancel a debt, nor is returning OTHER library books that they did not sign out (but thanks for returning them!) Other students discovered that Mr. So-and-so did indeed recieve the money, but it was never passed on to the bursar. He had to be tracked down, and the money discovered tucked away and safely forgotten. Some students were victims of mistaken identity, whereby "Clinton" owed money, but was it Fomonyuy Clinton, or Tamnjong Clinton? There is another Mohammed in another class, was he the one who signed for these Library books? All the while students pushed and jostled in front of each other trying to be the next one served, with no semblance of a line.

One poor boy discovered he had no debt to the bursary or library, and his class master did not have his report card. It was just swallowed up by the Chaos. At one point, after the hubbub had finally died down, one student came to the bursary to see what fees he owed. My wife was the only teacher there for the moment as the bursar had stepped out. Logan dutifully searched for his report card, with the boy grabbing and being pushy the whole time. When she showed him the fees owed written on the back of the report card, he snatched it and ran. He stole his own report card! The guards had to be sent to track him down.

At the end of the day, students either got their report cards or they didn't, they either passed on or they didn't, and we said goodbye and see you next year and have a long, happy, holiday.

Missing in this account is every chaotic thing that happened in our house and at the school, including the twice-burnt beans, the football match sing-along, the very welcome visitors, the sticker distribution, the white-out snatching, the calculator switching, the gossipy snitching, the sibling rivalry, our lack of food because we didn't have time and/or forgot to go shopping during the press of the crazy week, or anything else that added to the chaos.

But now it is over, and except for the GCE exams we must "invigilate" next week we are through for the school year. Praise God! What are the best three things about being a teacher?  June, July, and August.

We will enjoy the holiday, but we don't plan on being idle.  Stay tuned.


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