Monday, June 6, 2016

A Different School Culture



            Madagascar has a different school culture, like many other things, than the U.S.  Having spent the year before coming to Madagascar teaching high school history, not to mention having spent most of my life in an American school, I thought I was prepared for a teachers life in Madagascar.  Looking at the school culture now, two years later, it seems easy and chill but that was far from the case when I first arrived.  For about the first six months it was confusing; infuriating at times.  I learned over my first year the “schedule” when things would happen or not happen and now I have adjusted and just roll with it. 
            The school schedule has to be the one thing that gave me the most trouble in the beginning.  There are many holidays in the Malagasy school calendar but what is not there, at least in my school
and many of those in the countryside, is that most of the students/teachers take a few days extra afterwards.  Take the start of school for example.  Classes did not actually start at my school till a week after the official start date because very few people were there.  When asked about it the reason given is that teachers do not show up because they know the students will not be there and vice versa.  There is also what I will call ‘thunder days,’ days when it is thundering so loud that the students can not hear what you are saying.  Or ‘rain days,’ when it is raining really hard and students do not want to walk to class.  Classes are also canceled for teacher meetings or other special events that are usually unannounced. 
            The size of the classes also presents many problems of their own.  There is usually always a low murmur as the students talk amongst themselves.  Cheating is also a part of the school culture here and is something that most teachers do not try to stop unless a student is overtly cheating.  Some go as far as stepping out of the class while a test is in session.  Or students bringing in copies of other students tests to copy and pass around.  Tardiness of students and teachers is another difference in the schools here.  It is something that is forgiven most of the time and is contributed to what is called ‘Fotoan-gasy’ (Malagasy time, but can be equated to what we call island time).  
            Each class owns their own classroom here and it is the teachers who travel from class to class.  This lends to a since of ownership of the class leading to the students being responsible to sweep the class and lock it up after classes are over.  Each of these classes also has a ‘Chef de Class’ who is in charge of obtaining chalk from the office and wiping the board clean when the teacher needs it; a honor that the cherish. 
            This post is far from fully depleting the differences in the school culture here but it gives some insight into some o the more profound differences that I have observed. Although not all schools are the same, these are just some of the things that I have noticed at my school during my last two years teaching here in Vondrozo.  

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