As a Peace Corps volunteer teacher in Lesotho, I’m discovering major cultural differences, even in the classroom. What may seem, “normal” in a school in Lesotho, would be cause for jail, in the U.S.
I’m helping grade 7 prepare a debate on, “Are teachers to be blamed for the poor performance of students?”
While brainstorming points on the affirmative side, one girl, Lineo, who is smart and ambitious, brought up the following points which no longer shock me, as I’ve heard them before.
“Teachers fall in love with their students. This can lead to the poor performance of learners as learners would concentrate more on their affairs with teachers, than on their school work. Apart from that, it would not be easy for teachers to correct their learners when they are in love.”
Some male teachers will fail female students who refuse sex or who report them. I have not had anyone at my school report this, but this seems to be common in high schools as well as with professors in college. The problem is that once the girls fails, they lose their tuition fees in college and are forced to quit. One woman told me about this at the college level and is helping college girls win a lawsuit.
There was a scandal recently when a teacher killed one of his students in high school, after she told her parents she was pregnant. He wanted to “hide” the evidence.
Lineo also wrote about alcohol.
“Use of alcohol by teacher. When drunk, a teacher would not use the appropriate language or examples to learners. In addition a teacher would not prepare his/her work well.”
Lineo brought up a third point regarding teachers checking their cell phones during class, and not paying attention to their students.
In my school, none of the children have cell phones; their parents cannot afford them, however, all the teachers have one. I agree with Lineo, they are addicted to their phones, and although they don’t use them to Google lessons or to show children photos relevant to what they are teaching, they are constantly checking their phones.
Some of the other points the students brought up:
- The teachers are not interested. They are bored.
- Teachers test their students on topics they have not taught
- Teachers arrive late at school, or do not bother to show up
- Teachers hit the children with sticks. (I’ve seen this happen.)
- Teachers don’t speak English to the children, even tough the curriculum is in English
- The teacher is not qualified, or does not teach well
- The teachers are often in conflict with one another
We did a mock debate, and I was teaching the kids how to project their voices, and become more confident in expressing themselves. I can see light bulbs going off in Lineo’s head. I cannot believe her mother died a few days ago, and yet she doesn’t seem to show any sorrow. How come? Was she not close to her?
There are so many things I’m learning about the Basotho culture, and many that I cannot understand.