The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, nor any other governmental or non-governmental organization.

Nor is anything written here necessarily drawn from my own views, opinions, and observations. Please consider all postings and pictures complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality. For legal purposes, please additionally regard the author as utterly imaginary.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Highs and Lows

Note: today it has been 9 months since I swore in. 11 months since I arrived in country.

I used to be a member of a certain group in college. We met several times a week and usually one of the things we would do is share personal highs and lows from the past week. This helped us to stay apprised of what was really going on in each other's lives- what mattered to each person- what was really taking them for a ride but they didn't necessarily have the best opportunity to divulge it to their friends. Some highs were really high, and some lows were really lows. A major reason why I chose to go for the peace corps is that I heard you'd get some pretty freakin' serious apices/zeniths/apogees and some god-awful nadirs/perigees. It's exciting.

Anyway, one thing that strikes me all the time is how extremes co-mingle here. Donkey carts pass BMWs, ragged farmers talk on cell phones, drug dens sit next to cyber cafes, burning piles of trash outside the hospital. There are rich people and there are poor people, and, unlike in the US, they don't live all that far from each other.

Of course, there are also major gaps in education. Some private schools can be really good, and some public schools are generally missing their teachers (because they're busy working at the private schools for more money- lots of them have multiple 'jobs' like this). Some students are stuck in a broken system, and some have access to an emerging one. I'd like to tell two short stories to illustrate this:

The Broken:

As I mentioned in a previous post. Cheating. is. common. There is one test that matters. It's at the end of high school, and everybody cheats. And I'm not talking scribble a few answers on your hands cheating, I'm talking about James Bond stuff. Chinese hacker stuff. Students run headphones from hidden phones up through their clothes- girls have an advantage here since they can hide them under their hijabs. Because of this, the only day every girl can be guaranteed to cover their head is exam day. The students work in teams- some of them will sacrifice that year- signing the blank exam sheets with their names and then taking the exam out to the hallway where they work on it with the other students and relay messages in to the students who are taking the test. It's all very sophisticated. So the teachers are waging cyber warfare in response-- they wear radios on their belts and walk among the students. The radios pick up on interference when the kids are using their hidden phones. It's crazy.

These kids entire school careers hinge on the result of this test. And everybody cheats. Why study at all? How can you get by withOUT cheating? Advancement is dependent upon your ability to cheat well, not your ability to learn the material. So you end up with people employed in high positions who have zero skills other than sneakiness.

The Emerging System:

There is a teacher here who runs a private school for kids. His focus is on English. His students will make movies about cultural preservation in English. They'll give speeches in English. They'll sing songs that they wrote in English. They'll do volunteer projects in their communities. They'll thank each other, give constructive criticism. This teacher finds out what they're passionate about, he gives them the tools, and he says, run with it. Make it yours, do it in this language, and help each other. Be kind to one another. Be responsible for yourself and your friends here. He is teaching not just language, but leadership, practice of values, kindness, and everything that you'd want your kid to be learning.

But it is a private school. It's not available to most people in this city. Why is this guy not in charge of the entire education system? Could be because he didn't cheat well enough on his own high school test, and couldn't secure a government job. He had to found his own school out of his mother's basement with $80. But he freakin' did it. That's my high for the week.

(I am hoping to send this man to the US through a State Department program next year).

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The views, opinions, and observations expressed in this journal are my own and in no way reflect the views, opinions, or policy of the Peace Corps, Peace Corps Morocco, governmental or non-governmental organizations.

Nor is anything written here necessarily my own views, opinions, or observations. Please consider all pictures and texts here to be complete fabrications with absolutely no bearing on reality, this one or any other. For legal purposes, please additionally consider the author to be utterly imaginary.