The 6 girls who attend SFG and Tylon, who attends Archbishop Ndingi are home for the August break. The other high schools don’t close until August 12. As is often the case, grades for 2nd term were down. Julia has decreed that they will not go home to grandmother, aunt, or other guardian, but will stay here to study and prepare for 3rd term. For Tabitha, this is vital, as she is in form 4 and will be sitting for the KCSE at the end of October. The very day they came back, Tabitha was at my kitchen table, wanting me to go over her mock exam. Many of the questions were tough—just yesterday I finally figured out 2 that had stumped me. There are 2 more. Here is Tabitha.
She’s very shy and one whom I have not gotten to know well in past years, but yesterday as we worked I suddenly realized how beautiful she has become. So I decided to tell her so, knowing that young girls are usually unsure of themselves and need some positive input. “But I’m so dark!”, she said, as if that precluded her being beautiful. “You know, the word that comes to my mind as I look at you is exotic” Oh my, she was pleased, despite covering her face as she smiled. We talked about the issue of skin shades in Kenya. “You don’t have to take that on. Be proud and if someone mentions your color, have a snappy response—‘yes, and your point is?’” Then I had what I think was an inspiration. I have an extra mirror, so I fished it out of my room and gave it to her with the instruction, “Every morning look in that mirror and say, “I am beautiful!” I had no idea whether this would have the desired outcome, but tonight Julia told me that right after we talked, Tabitha had reported the whole conversation—and was very pleased.
Besides that, she’s good at math!
This morning came Beatrice, Selina’s sister. Beatrice is in form 3 and wants to follow her sister into nursing, but her math is terrible. She’s good in biology and chemistry, but math and English are very hard for her. She and Selina grew up in a very rural area, going to poor schools with poor teachers. They both have had a hard time understanding me, although Selina is getting better (she came to Mji 2 years before Beatrice). As I looked over her exam I wondered how she could possibly bring her score up high enough to be accepted in a nursing program (let alone a good program. So we began. Adding fractions. She is totally clueless. I showed her about common denominators and gave her some practice problems to work on. Later she came back, but none were correct. ARGH!!! She was dismayed, but she said, “I will improve.” I was very frank with her, telling her I just don’t have enough time before I leave (under 2 weeks now) to address all the things she needs to correct. “You must figure out for yourself what you don’t understand, go to your teacher and ask him for help. You need to have at least C+ in math to get into nursing.” “I will do it,” she promised. We talked about what she could do to improve her English—“read books! When the other girls are sitting around, you read books, when they’re listening to music, dancing, whatever, you read books!” and she left to re-work the math questions. Later on, after dinner I wandered into the dining hall where most of the kids were watching TV, but Beatrice was sitting with Lucas (8th grade) helping him with his math!!! You gotta’ hand it to her. She is determined. Note the book under her elbow, Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham.
Mary is another SFG girl, a form 3. Her marks were down, but you may recall she is one of the 2 sisters of Magdalene, who died just as they were doing midterm exams. The school is so rigid, she was not allowed to take the exams after she returned, but she is very bright and did a great job on her end-of-term exam. She brought it in for me so see and the only mistakes I could find were careless. She had 80%, which is very high here.
The marking is heartless. If you make a mistake in step 1, regardless of how trivial, that’s it. The problem is wrong! It doesn’t matter that you understand the process. Wrong answer? Wrong! It’s a system designed to defeat students. ARGH!!!!!
I didn’t get a picture of Joyce, but she also came in today to talk about her exam. Joyce is the poster child for determination, persistence and hard work. She really struggles, especially in math. Yet she had done fairly well. We covered 5 or 6 questions that she’d missed. Then I gave her some practice problems to do. When she came back I was impressed—so much so that I wondered whether she had received help. Later Julia told me Joyce was in the dining hall, working on math, alone, all afternoon. If she could get a C in math I would be so thrilled.
Julia has told the form 3’s they need to get at least C for the year or they must repeat it. Several of the kids are not thriving in school, but this threat (which she will definitely carry out) has gotten their attention. I’m waiting for Evelyn and Tylon to bring in their papers. They are both reluctant, to say the least, so I’ll not pursue them. If they don’t come, it will be evident they’ve made the choice to repeat. We’ll see.