My counterpart and I gave grade 5 the composition part of their test. We selected a picture from a book with an African boy sitting under a tree, looking at the contents of a shoe box. The scenery depicts life in rural Lesotho with typical Basotho rondavels, chickens pecking at bits of corn and other kids playing in a wheelbarrow.
I am sad to say that most of the students got 0/20. Their English makes no sense, and one girl, who seemed to write really well, was simply copying the text from the book. I gave her a zero.
This is an example of what I’m facing, and I really need help deciding where to start, as far as teaching them how to pass English, and move on to high school. All their subjects are supposed to be taught in English, but they are not. The teachers speak to them in Sesotho.
Here is an example of one of the “better” compositions.
“The boy is play. The boy are ran. Is the play. This is the boy is play the house. The boy his play. The three is the boy and girl. Is The play the car. This is the boedy and the boy is play the car. Is the play the car and the trees. My hous is clon the haus in the haus. Channg the haus is the boy is in the haus. In the tree cateng the three is the boy. The were his thing. Boy is play the box. The boy is play the car is the boy. Meke the lane the haus in the were theng the car and the three.”
I gave him 4/20, because it was one of the better essays.
Do you have any advice as to where to start with these 5th graders who are 10-12-years-old?
I try to follow the Government’s 5th grade curriculum, and even when I teach the present tense, only two kids in my class of sixteen seem to understand.
The other day I gave a pre-test, and even though I gave them the answers to 3 questions, the majority only scored 1/15. They should at least have managed 3/15.
I have a feeling poor nutrition, and being hungry has a lot to do with the lack of concentration during class. Most of the children just eat breakfast and lunch at school which is pure starch, and don’t get any protein. I feel sorry for them as the food is always the same: soft porridge with lots of sugar, and no milk, and papa (maize meal) and boiled dry beans for lunch. I know that beans and starch make a complete protein, but they never get eggs, dairy, vegetables, fish or meat. Several years ago, the lunches were healthier, but due to the cuts in government funding, and relying on WFP (World Food Program,) they are not getting enough food for a growing child’s body and brain in my opinion. They always talk about “nama” meat, and how they like Christmas, when they get meat.
The children have not been exposed to books except for the three books assigned in grades 5, 6 and 7. One of them is called, “The Crooked Path,” which I read, and found a little strange, but that’s due to cultural differences. They have to read the same three books and answer the same questions each year, however, at my school, seven children have to share one book, and they cannot take it home to read.
Since I also teach English in 7th grade, where the children range from 12-16, I found it interesting how different these children’s concerns and priorities are from those where my children grew up in California.
They were asked to write an essay about the season they like best. Here are some of their comments.
“I like summer because I eat breakfast.”
“The season I like best is winter because the people are pruning the trees and we get big fruits.”
“I like winter when we kill pig for meat.”
Others wrote a letter thanking their uncle for their birthday present. Once again, there were many mistakes, and I am concerned about the best approach to help them, as they will not graduate into high school is they do not pass 7th grade. Many of the older children have repeated 7th grade, three to four times, and are still failing.
Here are some of their letters:
“My uncle give me a present of a cake. I am happy for that.”
“My Uncle my birthday will be on 3rd October, 2016 You will give me the present for my birthday. Please give me the present like cake, sweets, tones and flowers to make beautiful present. I am happy as a lark to talk about my birthday.”
“When it’s my birthday party, I want to go to hotels and eat pizer and I want to make a sandwich. Sandwich is the power when our body. I want to eat some food everyday.”
There are about six children in 7th grade that are motivated, and five of them are girls. What surprises me is that three of the girls are orphans, and yet, they are able to study and are interested in learning, compared to so many of the remaining thirty students, who do not seem to care.
During the grammar part of the exam, I found some of their answers particularly interesting:
Question: “What do you call one who is married to your brother?”
Answers: “Good luck.” “Sorry.” “It someone who kill my brother.”
Question: What is the feminine of King?
Answers: A girl wrote, “Mistress.” Another answer, “Wife.”
Question: What is the feminine of “Son”
My counterpart, and other teachers agree that the majority of the students do not seem to care about learning, despite any effort to make it more fun, and offer activities. One thing they all enjoy though, are the DVDs, I started showing recently since electricity arrived in our village.
I believe that educational DVDs, might be one way to get them motivated to learn. Many of them have never seen a TV or a video, and are able to sit for hours and focus on a DVD.
Please let me know if you have suggestions on where to start with the 5th and 7th grade children. I have a curriculum to follow, and as you can see, the children have not grasped the basics. I really want them to do well, and pass their exams.