Well, I’ve finished my first term as a teacher here. I feel like I am getting more of a hang on what I’m doing but there is definitely room for improvement.
Grades here are different. First of all, grades at Melsisi are done out of 20 points. I give them a percentage and then figure out what that is of 20. Most of my kids got around 12 or 13. This is normal. 80% is an A here. The standards are just lower here than we are used to in the west. The education system here is just not doing a great job of teaching these kids. There is no accountability for the teachers who sometimes just skip their classes. The transportation infrastructure here is also so broken that having all your students for the second week of classes is something of a surprise. Then there are all the missed classes for various reasons. My year 9A class didn’t end up with an official grade this term because I missed a month of classes in a three month term. One of the first teachers at the school died so they cancelled school. Then some AusAID donors showed up late and I was involved in that so they didn’t have class. Then we had Easter, then we had Labor day. I did get a class with them the last week of school but that was after grades were due. The administration had me re-work the whole school’s schedule for second term. I no longer have a class on Mondays.
Despite the obstacles, I feel like my kids are learning. They’re generally capable of opening programs and moving around the operating system at a very basic level. My year 10s are able to successfully create some basic letters, essays, and posters in word. They may not be great essayists but that’s not what I’m working on. They also remain excited about classes.
My computer repair class is also moving along after a couple hitches. I started out teaching two of the male teachers. Then one of them (the one with better knowledge) was moved to a school on Santo. Yes, this can happen in the middle of the first term. I re-started the class with more teachers. I only got a few classes in before the end of term but did have three women and three or four men involved. Hopefully they’ll carry on into the second term. All of them seem to be picking up the material fairly well. I’m interested to see how much of it will stick through the break.
I also finally have a schedule for my community classes. They’ll be starting the week after I get back from Vila. When I left, there were only a few signed up for the class but I hope to have more by the time I get back. There was a lot of interest expressed. I’ve learned well here that this doesn’t always translate into participation but it doesn’t hurt.
In other exciting news for the school and Melsisi community, we may be getting more reliable power. There is a large pot of money currently available for energy development. Last month, we had an engineer visiting to scope out Melsisi for being one of the places to get access to that pot. He identified a lot of good places to put solar and sounded pretty optimistic about getting some put in. There will also hopefully be a wind speed tester to look at possible future development of wind power in the area. If we do get solar, it will be a vast improvement over the generator we have now. For one thing, we will no longer be concerned about the cost of fuel. For another, the current generator is only just big enough to support the number of computers we have now. We also don’t currently have a regulator on the power flowing to the office block. When a generator outputs power it does not do so at a constant level. A regulator smooths the bumps out and prevents damaging spikes or drops in power. I’ve told the administration multiple times that this is why their computers keep cutting out and that they need to bring the electrician back to hook up the regulator we have. They haven’t listened to me yet. I hooked up the one in my lab myself. If we get solar, there will be some big batteries and nice smooth power. Hopefully more than we have now so that we can expand.