One of the toughest days in this year’s summer visit to Tanzania was the meeting with our current Form 4 secondary school students during their break between semesters. These are the students who will be taking the National Exam in November to determine whether they can continue to a Pre-University “A” level program (otherwise referred to as Form 5 & 6).
By way of background, last year EdPowerment graduated its first group of Secondary School Form 4 graduates. All six students passed the National Exam, which over 60% of Tanzanian Form 4 students failed. Three of our 6 students scored in the lowest passing “Division” and therefore can continue on to vocational or certificate programs, but not to formal “A level” studies. The three who passed are now enrolled in competitive, reputable A level schools which should equip them to pursue University studies.
Back to this year... In Tanzania, the National Form 4 exam is preceded by several mock exams. Our students had just received results from one such exam and the news wasn’t good. Some observers believe that the mock exam is structured to be a “wake up call” – and indeed, it was quite the “shake up” call for our students. What transpired in our meeting was an honest assessment of why their results were disappointing – did the blame lie with themselves, their teachers or the test itself (these tests are notoriously manipulated each year by government authorities to suit an educational agenda constantly in flux)? As you might expect, there was plenty of blame to go around. More importantly, however, our students left with a resolve to work harder, prepare smarter and do better. We reviewed test taking strategies, took notes to pass on to their school administrators and…. gave each student an unexpected boost … a complete set of review books. The students’ relief at having their own review books was palpable – and we know that some of our brightest will make the most of this study tool.
After speaking to each student individually, reviewing his or her personal needs for the upcoming semester, giving him or her monies to provide for these (items such as the requisite black school shoes, shoe polish, toothpaste, soap, underwear), and passing out a real treat – boxed lunches of chicken and chips – we ended the day on a positive note of encouragement for students who must overcome an educational system skewed serve only the academically or materially gifted.