Mwajuma, a young girl who we sponsor to attend secondary school, was over the other day to get help from me on geography. The topic was longitude and latitude lines and how to differentiate time zones using the former. I looked at the examples and saw these odd math problems using something akin to what I remember as algebra. I looked closer and saw the answer........If it is twelve o clock noon in X place at y longitude, what time will it be in Z place....the "answer" from her teacher was 2:40 pm!!!
It so happened that 5 of the (former) street boys who we also sponsor in school were there. I asked for their help and each of them were familiar with the (incorrect) formula. There is a standardized curriculum for the entire country. All government schools use the same books. The teacher writes everything on the board and the kids copy word for word. They do not get a book. Many of the schools don't even have a library.
I asked the kids "what are you going to do about this? Will you tell your teachers that they are wrong?" One boy said that if they do that, they risk getting into a lot of trouble- they aren't allowed to tell a teacher they are wrong. They saw the now familiar look on my face when I am about to launch into protest mode. Mwajuma said "I am going to tell my teacher!" Emmanuel followed and said "I will also tell". The others were quiet.
The boys are on holiday still, but Mwajuma told her teacher and he said he had just been "testing" the students to see who was clever enough to spot his error. Right. I don't want to use this blog to complain about Tanzania, but this disturbed me a lot. In defense of the education system, the problems seems to correct itself because all of the older students I have asked know the correct formula, but what is most disturbing is that in general, independent thinking and creativity are just not rewarded- just obedience and memorization.
I welcome dissenting opinions and stories that would cheer me up.