Type to Learn

Posted on November 21st, 2009 by

A few days back, I headed to the Nsoo Secondary School for another day of teaching.  I was running a little late and once reaching the school, headed straight for the classroom.  Before I reached my destination, I was intercepted by the school’s secretary, Mary.  She said the headmaster wanted a word with me.  I told her that I had class then, and perhaps I could speak to him afterwards?  No, she said, it’s urgent. So off I go with Mary. 

Upon entering his office, I saw the headmaster squished behind his desk which was pilled with messy stacks of dog-eared papers.  Head in hands, he motioned me to sit at the  chair in front of the desk which is always facing the wall, perpendicular to the headmaster.

The head master sighed once and said, “We have a problem.”  Uh-oh, I thought, this doesn’t sound good.  Hundreds of possibilities flooded my head.  What could this be about?  They weren’t going to fire me, were they? 

“Yes?” I asked, mentally rifling through all of the possibilities in my head.

“Final exams are next week and our typist is gone.  We need someone to type them up.  Could you do that?” he asked, fiddling with a blue pen.  Much relieved that I wasn’t going to be fired from my volunteering job, I eagerly agreed to the task and went to class.

Later that afternoon, I was flagged down by Mary again.  She led me to a backroom, unlocked a heavily padlocked cabinet and pulled out a huge stack of papers.  Warily, I eyed the thick pile of exams.  It was a lot more than I had bargained for.  She cheerfully handed over the papers and thanked me profusely.  I had the notion that if it wasn’t for me, she would have had to type all of the exams up. 

Once home, I settled in to type exams.  The work was more interesting than I had expected it.  Knowing little about the Tanzanian school system and curriculum, it was interesting to see what these students were learning and compare it to my high school education.  Though  the material covered is similar, the delivery method is different.  Unlike in an American high school were you can choose which classes to take, in Tanzania you have no choice.  The courses are also maintained throughout the year and repeated at higher levels in subsequent years. 

I returned to the school the following day with half of the papers typed only to find that they didn’t have power and I couldn’t give them the typed exams. 

“Come back tomorrow,” Mary said. “Hopefully we will have power then.  Oh, and here are some more exams.”  She handed me another stack, though this one wasn’t as large. 

All in all, I typed up over 20 final exams (which were no little tests, by the way) on every subject ranging from Math to Bible Study to English (which, surprisingly, had a few grammar mistakes).


One Comment

  1. Barbara Keith says:

    Good job! Sounds like they will be eternally grateful to you!

    That is the benefit your generation has from having used computers all your life: typing is second nature. Be glad you got to type the exams on your computer rather than having to type them on a typewriter where you can’t backspace over your mistakes! And it is good to hear you weren’t fired from your volunteer job :-)

    I don’t suppose they can save your files for next time?