Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Educational Foundations

I last saw Frank* as a young child of about 10. His mother sent him to the village to complete his primary school. Later when she heard that we had a school, she brought him back to Jos. He is now 15 years old.

Although Frank has finished 6th grade, I tested him in math and reading in order to determine his grade level. I've learned not to simply place children in the next grade level.

Unfortunately, he was low in both reading and math, terribly low. Truly, he didn't even qualify for 5th grade, but I didn't have the heart to put a 15-year-old lower than that.

I gently broke the news to him, "I'm sorry that I won't be able to put you in secondary school. You will need to enter 5th grade." I saw the muscle flinch across his jaw as his eyes looked away. "Go home and tell your mother what I said. I hope to see you back here tomorrow."

To his credit, he came back the next day and humbled himself to enter the 5th grade.

About a week later, he met the principal and me, and said, "I want you to put me in the 3rd grade." We were speechless and asked why. He said, "These other students have passed me." We still encouraged him to press on in the 5th grade.

He tried, but a few days later, he was back with the same request. We compromised and put him in 4th grade.

Frank is making progress through a lot of intensive work in math drilling on basic facts and learning to read through phonics.

Today as I sat with Frank and other older students who are working on their foundations, I asked him: "Do you want to go to the university one day?" With a far-off gleam in his eye, Frank said, "Yes."

*name has been changed for privacy

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