Sunday, September 30, 2012

Visit to a secondary school in Bilene

Part of the workshop on moodle we presented a couple of weeks ago included a visit to a secondary school nearby. The plan was to talk with the teachers and try to understand a bit better the challenges they face in the provinces.

Bilene is a small town in the Province of Gaza, about 150 kms from Maputo. Its location by Lagoa Uembje and the sea makes it a favorite with tourists. During the low season and in the middle of the week, it's basically empty (hence its appeal to run workshops for groups).

The whole team  of the Ministry of Education walked to the Escola Marista de Bilene where they have high school classes levels 8th to 10th. Kids that need to go to the 11th and 12th grades, don't have where to go. When distance to school is an issue, parents might be discouraged to continue sending their children because even the cost of public transport might prove too much.

During the conversation with the teachers, we also found out that each one taught two disciplines. While this is the standard in places like Germany, here they do so because in small communities there are not enough students to provide a teacher with full-time employment. At least in that school the arrangement seemed to have worked, but not surprisingly, the teachers and administrative staff expressed interest in opportunities for professional development in those areas they didn't feel to be well-prepared. Those who were currently attending long distance education courses, found they were stretched to their limits with their multiple commitments.

We asked them to consider the hypothesis of a computer room for long distance classes. While they do have a room that could be used for that purpose, finding staff to take care of it would be a challenge. Computer skills and the services of a technician, plus the cost of electricity and probably conditioning of the room would be additional burdens on the budget.

It drove the point home that just providing computers is clearly not useful unless it includes proper support for teachers and staff and provisions for electricity, internet, and maintenance services. Not a one-time solution but a long-term commitment.

Of course, that's when you actually have a building. When the condition is such as the one shown in the picture below (taken by a colleague in the province of Manica), there is many more steps to take before considering computers... 
Classroom in Manica (C) Ed Phillips

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