(written on May 21, 2011)

Last week I was chosen by the headteacher to invigilate the Class 7 Standardized testing. After the two days of testing I thought we were finished but actually we were just beginning. The headteacher then shared with me that we’d spend ALL of Thursday and Friday in town marking/grading our exams. (FYI…exams in Kiswahili = mitihani) Of course the day we want to go to town is the day a Daladala strike begins and all public transportation ends. So the government ordered massive charter buses to carry people in and out of town which was a nightmare. Imagine if you were at the back of a 60 person vehicle and needed to get off at the next stop. They also converted taxis into daladalas by cramming up to 7 or 8 people in a car. Finally we arrived in town and began walking to the school where we’d be marking their scores. Then we did the usual Tanzanian wait an hour to start. Once a few other teachers arrived, I was told we’d be grading ALL the exams of Class 7 students for ALL non-governmental schools in the Morogoro area. It was then that I understood why he said it’d take 2 full days to grade all the tests. So we corralled our desks into a circle and started the marking assembly line. I was responsible for questions 21-25. The woman to my left had a habit of handing me each test with her red pen still in hand meaning my left hand (and arm) were covered in red dots and lines before the day was done. Being that we had marked well through lunch time I was anticipating the usual plate of rice and beans but we were only presented with some bread (similar to cornbread), a small juice and a cup of tea. (I imagine this is due to school budget cuts here. Oh how we’re all alike in some ways…) So from 9:30am to 3:00pm we marked only 3 exams (granted they were from 12 schools averaging at least 70 students each for these exams.) So we finished, made our way back to the city and boarded a large delivery truck which was being used in place of daladalas.  Day 1 complete!

Day 2 started off more on time (which was a nice change of pace) and it at least seemed like a good sign. We had finished marking all 5 sets of exams by 11am and I was thrilled that I would be able to be back home in time for a healthier lunch than a juice box and muffin. I was wrong. We then had to hand write the records for each student on all their exams on forms for their school. This included the normal periods of waiting and when we finished with the Class 7 exams, we went to help the Class 4 group finish theirs. What was imagined (and hoped for) to be a lovely half day concluded at 5:30pm which made for a really long Friday. But the mitihani are marked and I have now experienced another aspect of the education system of Tanzania. Oh how much I took Scantrons for granted…

*I forgot to mention the plethora of grammar and spelling errors on the tests. This is one of my frustrations with testing here because if a person who fluently speaks English can’t understand the question, how do they expect any student to understand and answer correctly? Fortunately there weren’t too many that were completely incomprehensible but I feel bad for the students who probably tried hard to understand the question and couldn’t. Then came the arguments between teachers over a number of questions on the English exam. I shared that I had “some” experience with the English language (though I admitted that I’m far from perfect with it) but that didn’t seem to matter to some of  the teachers. And there’s nothing like correcting the answer key that was already put together by other teachers…

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