Friday, March 6, 2009

Moving On

Once we returned from Christmas break, I’d been in Cameroon for seven months. I was feeling discouraged about my life and work here. I have detailed some of the challenges at my lycee before: class sizes of 60-90 students, having eleven total classes and seeing each once every two weeks, teaching only computer theory and no practical classes, the list goes on. These problems have continued, and I’m sure would continue through my next year of service, if I hadn’t decided to leave.

Let’s back up for a minute: In mid February, I traveled to Yaoundé to participate in the Education Program’s Steering Committee. I thought the meeting went well: we discussed ways for volunteers to share resources, debated the kind of work education volunteers should be involved in, and made some delicious quiche. In one of the meetings I mentioned that I can’t take on much as far as secondary projects, not because I teach too many hours, but because I just have too many students. I added it up: I’m expected to evaluate about seven hundred and thirty children every sequence. A sequence is six weeks, which means I see them a total of three times, including a test. (I’ve actually started scheduling my tests outside class. They’re used to having to come to school on Saturday morning, but losing my weekend makes the following week pretty rough.) Our boss, in charge of the education program, said he knows I’m stuck teaching theory, and then said that he thinks they’ll have to close the post if the school doesn’t need a practical, computer literacy teacher. He added, after I leave, of course.

So I came back to Ngaoundéré with all my dissatisfactions validated. Peace Corps requires our bosses to come visit us at post once a year: my visit was coming up soon after the meeting. I knew I was unhappy at lycee, and once my boss said he’d close the post, I knew he’d be open to the idea of my leaving. So, I started brainstorming options. The most obvious alternative is to work as a lab monitor at my current lycee. However, I’ve realized why I’m not working there already: they don’t need me. The lab is fully staffed with capable Cameroonians. I thought about the Centre Socio Menager, where I’ve been teaching one hour a week. I like the principal there, the class size, and the all-practical course. I considered the bilingual school: I hear they have a nice computer lab, but I was worried I’d encounter the same problems again. Michelle told me about the Centre de Promotion des Femmes (Center to Promote Women), and that they teach computer classes there. We went to investigate.

They teach a computer training course to adults (the class I observed had two men out of a dozen students). The lab holds fifteen or twenty computers, of varying ages. I met the two men who currently teach the classes: Yannick and Eduard. I explained that I am busy at the lycee for now, but I was researching options for the summer. I didn’t want to commit to anything yet, and feel that since the school year is practically over, I’d rather finish it. By visit’s end, I’m sold. These men are nice, professional, and excited to work with me. The facility is great for Cameroon, and the class’s focus is perfect: the two month course to prepare students for a career as a secretary.

So, for my site visit, I introduced my boss to the Centre de Promotion des Femmes (CPFF). I think he was impressed by Yannick and Eduard: he said he rarely meets such young, motivated Cameroonians. On a broad level, Peace Corps Cameroon Education is trying to move away from lycee teaching, and into teacher training programs. We think this is a much more sustainable form of development. He said I should finish the year at lycee, but that working at the CPFF is the kind of development Peace Corps wants to be involved in.

Now that I know next year will be different, I feel capable of finishing the school year. The last remaining hurtle is leaving. Everyone knows the typical Peace Corps service lasts two years. I don’t want my school to be offended that I decided not to finish. However, I think I can explain my reasons to the handful of people who’ve become my friends. Especially to my counterpart, who has proved to be a supportive friend through my struggles. Since I’ll still be in Ngaoundéré, I’ll still maintain the friendships.

I feel pretty lucky to live in a city here. Sometimes I regret not having a village experience, but in village I would not have had so many alternatives to lycee work. So, once again, I’m excited to be in Ngaoundéré and motivated to make the best of my short opportunity here.

No comments:

Post a Comment