Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Like Taking a Grass Snake to School

According to the Ministry of Education, Monday was the first day of the new school year.

According to real life, it wasn't.

I'm very aware of school issues because I have the (mis)fortune of living on a street that boasts three (3) kindergartens and one (1) high school. So I always know when school is in or not.

Well, it's been very quiet both Monday and Tuesday. This morning, the kindergarten across the street from my house was open but the mustn't have received all their students yet. Though I could hear the children's voices and they played the usual songs about ducks, and boats and cuckoos in the forest, there wasn't nearly as much traffic or even pedestrian activity as on a regular school day.

My mother also works in a kindergarten and she tells me that her back-t0-school day is set for next Monday. And, if things go according to the same pattern as the last few years, she'll still be receiving kids as late as October.

Nothing I've cited above is surprising, or even new. All through my own schooling, the official starting date was almost never respected by the nuns. Parents, for their part, rutinely sent their kids abroad on vacation for the summer, without a second thought for the school schedule.

What is changing, though, is the number of people who cannot afford to pay for school. The numbers are growing and we cannot deny this truth.

Of course, there is the dichotomy between "good", usually private, schools and the state schools.

The more elite private or foreign schools are, of course, proportionally more expensive. A former coworker paid 25,000 Gdes (about $685 US) per semester for Kindergarten for her son at the French school. This was two or three years ago.

And then there are the Catholic schools. About five (5) of them are both elite (and elitist) and have a very good ranking in the national exams. I went to "the best". Well, we were (and still are) fighting for that title with our Arch-Enemy.

They are not as expensive as the other private schools but still more expensive than other, less reputable schools. People, regardless of their religion, are constantly fighting to have their daughters admitted. For that same reason, I try NOT TO MENTION I'M A FORMER STUDENT.

About 800 kids try out every spring for 1st grade at my old school. There are only 80 seats available. You can imagine the pleading, begging and even bribery that goes on. Especially since the nuns give priority to their "legacy students".

The government has little control over these schools, or the prices they charge. I don't even know if the DGI (our tax people) audits schools or not.

As for the state schools, there are too few of them, the quality of the education is terribly poor. I should know, I keep meeting the kids that come out of there. Poor reading and writing skills in French. Even in speach, it's obvious they're working with limited knowledge of the language and its construction. But that another topic for another post right there.

The one good thing the Ministry of Education did was publish the official tuition for the different levels in the state schools.

Can you believe that there are parents who cannot afford the 100 gourdes ($3 US) to send their children to grammar school for the year? Let alone spare another 100 gourdes so these kids can eat at the cafeteria.

Yet, it is true. It even made the front page of the papers last year. The press has also related the trials and tribulations of the parents struggling to send their kids to schools this year.

So it seems the prover was right. For most people getting their kids an education is like taking a grass snake to school.

And affording it is like making that snake sit in class...

1 comment:

Bumble said...

hey Lacaribane!
Je voulais te demander tes coordonnees ... je fais un petit projet de documentaire et je voulais savoir si tu etais interresse a participer.