Thursday, July 26, 2007

There are Many Gaps to Bridge

“So what is your favorite part of school?”
“Writing the tests that ASAP brings us.”

When fifth grader Hardlife Dirorimwe answered my question in this way, I thought he was just trying to give the scary American woman the answer she wanted. As I was walking home with Bridge the Gap Project Manager Collins Mutsvairo, I joked that I had never met a child whose favorite part of school was taking tests.

“No,” he corrected me, “his favorite part of school isn’t taking tests, it’s writing the diagnostic tests that ASAP brings.”

Apparently, taking ASAP’s tests is something that excites many of the rural students. Why? Because it’s the only time each student gets a piece of paper and a pencil all to him or herself. Even more exciting, the paper has the questions printed right on it!

Usually, three or four students share a writing utensil and a notebook of newsprint. Textbooks are even scarcer. As many as ten students can be forced to share the same book in some subjects. Teaching aids like maps, protractors, rulers, and charts are all but non-existent. Further complicating matters, inflation has raised school fees out of reach of many students and teacher pay has become low enough to make teachers wonder if they should come to work at all.

In light of so many difficulties, ASAP’s education programs provide a ray of hope. Bridge the Gap adds much needed energy and enthusiasm to math education through quiz competitions, after school math clubs, and teacher training workshops. Kufusa Mari Junior attacks a different, but equally important issue by helping students form savings clubs and raise money for their school fees. ASAP field officers are deeply engaged in the schools they serve and work hard to supplement the existing educational system. With programs like these, ASAP is giving the most marginalized students a chance to succeed.

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