Distant, difficult and broken classrooms: South Sudan, 2016

March 30, 2017

Millions of students across the world miss educations they should be getting, due to war, famine, weather or poverty.

ICRC caption: In the town of Kodok, South Sudan, a boy stands in a shuttered school, where classes have been closed for months after fighting intensified in the area. Photo: Jason Straziuso/ICRC

ICRC caption: In the town of Kodok, South Sudan, a boy stands in a shuttered school, where classes have been closed for months after fighting intensified in the area. Photo: Jason Straziuso/ICRC

What are the odds this boy will, within a few years, take up a gun to fight in a war, instead of finishing his education?

What can we do about it?

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Distant and difficult classrooms: Syria, 2016

September 17, 2016

How do others outside the U.S. go to school?

Foreign Affairs featured a gallery of photos of a school in Syria, in a zone of war. School is still important. Students attend class in a cave, offering some protection from some bombs.

Internally displaced children attend a class inside a cave in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria, March 27, 2016. Photo by Khalil Ashawi; Foreign Affairs photo

Internally displaced children attend a class inside a cave in the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Idlib province, Syria, March 27, 2016. Photo by Khalil Ashawi; Foreign Affairs photo and caption

Learning the Hard Way in Syria

In the rebel-controlled village of Tramla, in Syria’s Idlib province, the dusty stone steps to the town’s only primary school lead down to a damp cave. In February, a strike on two schools and five hospitals in Idlib province left 50 dead, many of whom were children. Before that, in April 2014, barrel bombs killed 25 students at a school in opposition-held Douma near Aleppo. This has forced Syria’s teachers to turn trailers, poultry farms, and other unusual terrains into classrooms in the war-torn country where more than two million children remain out of school.

More photos at Foreign Affairs; go look.


School in distant, difficult classrooms: Kenya

December 4, 2015

Photo from Heidi Totten, who is spearheading a campaign to get desks for schools like this one in Kenya:

Tenkees School, in the Mau region of Kenya. Photo by Heidi Totten

Tenkees School, in the Mau region of Kenya. Photo by Heidi Totten

Ms. Totten, working with a group called 100 Humanitarians (Entrepreneurs Changing the World), posted this in November, for a November 27 fundraising project.

Our next $5 Friday Fundraiser will be for additional desks for this school in the Mau region of Kenya. This is a very remote area that we visited. The school serves over 300 students with very few desks that they cram into.

They also have two latrines for each gender. With 300 kids you can imagine the sanitary conditions.

*   *   *   *   *

Our hope is to start with adding more desks, then rebuilding the kitchen and adding latrines. Just $5 can go far!

Please feel free to click over to this group and contribute.

How well would you or your kids learn in this school?

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Difficult classrooms: Sierra Leone, after Ebola

May 9, 2015

Schools in Sierra Leone closed during the Ebola crisis, and stayed shuttered for nine months.

In early April 2015, schools started to reopen.

Al Jazeera photo:  Sierra Leone schools reopen after nine-month Ebola shutdown http://alj.am/1DEqOKU

Al Jazeera photo: Sierra Leone schools reopen after nine-month Ebola shutdown http://alj.am/1DEqOKU

Education is important. Children in tough, crisis-riven parts of the world, do what they can to learn.  It’s not easy.

CBS News:  More than 8,000 schools reopen in Sierra Leone after Ebola outbreak http://cbsn.ws/1JH6k52

CBS News: More than 8,000 schools reopen in Sierra Leone after Ebola outbreak http://cbsn.ws/1JH6k52 “Sierra Leone health officials check passengers transiting at the border crossing with Liberia in Jendema, March 28, 2015. Getty”

Al Jazeera assembled a report from wire services:

More than 8,000 schools reopened for the country’s estimated 1.8 million students, whose education was interrupted by the health crisis. Sierra Leone’s government and the U.N.’s children’s agency, UNICEF, have promised to check temperatures regularly and promote hand washing to discourage the spread of Ebola in the schools.

“This marks a major step in the normalization of life in Sierra Leone,” said Roeland Monasch, UNICEF’s representative in Sierra Leone. “It is important that all children get into school including those who were out of school before the Ebola outbreak. Education for all is a key part of the recovery process for the country.”

Though few children returned to school in the capital Freetown, government workers and aid workers were optimistic that attendance would increase in the days ahead, according to Leslie Scott, national director for aid agency World Vision.

“The skepticism is based on fear of Ebola because people are not very confident of sending their children if schools are not well prepared,” he said.

At the Prince of Wales secondary school in the west of Freetown, hundreds of pupils showed up in a compound that medical charity Doctors Without Borders used as an Ebola care center just a few weeks before. The compound has been decontaminated but classrooms are still being prepared.

“Some of the kids are standing here (in the sun) because their classrooms are still being painted,” said school principal Rodney Coker, who added that the turnout was impressive.

By contrast, Emmanuel Caulker, principal of the Jaiama Secondary School in Kono district, said only 13 children showed up, compared to an expected 500, a turnout echoed by other schools.

“We have also not received our teaching and learning materials promised by the government,” Caulker told Reuters.

Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said it hopes that the year’s academic curriculum can still be covered before the end of the school year. A small number of junior secondary schools have been open since late March for exams.

UNICEF and World Vision said they had trained teachers to support children affected by the virus. In all, more than 9,000 children were orphaned by Ebola in Sierra Leone.


School in distant, difficult classrooms: Afghanistan

June 10, 2014

From @HistoricalPics: This is what a school in Afghanistan looks like. Be thankful for what you have. pic.twitter.com/Dsfva1yNb4

From @HistoricalPics: This is what a school in Afghanistan looks like. Be thankful for what you have. pic.twitter.com/Dsfva1yNb4

A school in Afghanistan — probably the entire school.

Learning can occur almost anywhere.  Some children go to great lengths to get an education, to improve their lives where they are, or to improve their chances of finding a better place to live.

I’ll wager this school has no wi-fi, no in-school suspension, few homework problems, and no difficulty with Common Core State Standards.

Afghanistan’s schools all seem to offer amazing hurdles to education, by U.S. standards.  Look at these photos.

A line of girls on their way to school. In Afghanistan most of the cities have limited number of schools which are mostly far away from students home. From Everything Afghanistan

A line of girls on their way to school. In Afghanistan most of the cities have limited number of schools which are mostly far away from students home. From Everything Afghanistan

BBC featured a story on the Afghanistan schools project.  Caption here:  Many Afghan schools are outdoors or in makeshift shelters on barren, dusty earth

BBC featured a story on the Afghanistan schools project. Caption here: Many Afghan schools are outdoors or in makeshift shelters on barren, dusty earth. (These photos from 2009; photos by Ramon Mohamed, a teacher from Broomhill, Sheffield, England.)

 

Another outdoor Afghanistan classroom.  Photo from BBC

Another outdoor Afghanistan classroom. Photo from BBC

2010 post from Reality of Life in Afghanistan:

2010 post from Reality of Life in Afghanistan: “Eight years since the repressive Taliban regime was overthrown, 42 per cent children still do not attend or have access to schools. (Photo: RFE/RL)”

Those of us who advocate for outdoor classrooms generally have something else in mind than these photographs from Afghanistan show.

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How to get things done in Dallas schools

September 28, 2012

Interesting.  Troubling?  I think so.  Matthew Haag blogs at the Dallas Morning News site:

This time of the year, we often hear from parents and Dallas ISD teachers that their schools are stifling hot. The district has lots of older campuses, where air-conditioning units are on their last legs and the chillers don’t operate fully.

That was the case for a few hours yesterday at Harry Stone Montessori in East Oak Cliff. And a father of a Stone student took a different route to get the AC fixed. He messaged DISD Superintendent Mike Miles on Twitter, which he rebooted six weeks ago. (His Twitter account, I should add, is managed by his special assistant, Miguel Solis, who is rarely more than a few feet from Miles all day.)

@MMilesDISD Hard to study when the A/C is broken w 90 degree heat @harry Stone…you wants results and so do Let’s Fix it. @matthewhaag

Four hours later, Miles responded.

We are on it @ChrisSuprun: Hard to study when the A/C is broken w 90 degree heat @harry Stone…you want results and so do Let’s Fix it.

And about two hours later, the AC was fixed.

Feel like we should time it: “@MMilesDISD We are on it @ChrisSuprun: Hard to study when the A/C is broken w 90 degree heat @harry Stone.”

@RobertWilonsky@ChrisSuprun Crew is telling me we are fixed now Thx to facilities, HS Staff, and community involved with this

Obviously, the moral of this story is that if you need something fixed in your school, message Miles on Twitter.

It’s interesting that the new Superintendent, Mike Miles, responded quickly.  On one hand that suggests things may have already changed in Dallas.  On the other hand, people who study organizations understand that a calm surface can hide a lot of turmoil in the deep water.  It was a parent who Tweeted. What if it had been a teacher who got to Miles?  What happened to the teacher and principal at Harry Stone?  What happened to the HVAC guy nominally responsible?

What happened to the students?

My experience in Dallas ISD is that almost everyone in administration will claim they cannot control classroom temperatures.  My last classroom regularly hit 85°, and often enough climbed into the 90s.  Meanwhile, my colleague across the hall had to wear jackets.  Our thermometers regularly had the temperatures in her room in the 60s.  One week it dropped further.  I bought a laser-pointer thermometer to check the answers we got from the HVAC guys who would come into the classroom, usually in the middle of a presentation, point the thing around and tell us that the temperature was where it should be, or moving that way. (Then they’d disappear.)   We recorded several days of temperatures in her room below 60°, as low as 52°.  Eventually the solution was to cover the air vents coming into that classroom, and take out the thermostat.

I am not kidding.

I wonder what the HVAC people in Dallas ISD would say about the ultimate solution at Harry Stone Montessori?  From the Superintendent’s office, did he chalk this off to a great anomaly, or did he check deeper to see whether there might be a deeper problem?

Unnecessary cooling is a huge energy waster in schools.  Unnecessary heating wastes energy, too.   Dallas’s fraud and abuse hotline claimed not to have jurisdiction over these issues . . . when an organization is hemorrhaging money, as all Texas school districts are after the Lege took so many potshots at them over the past six years, good management could be lifesaver.

So, to get action, teachers only need to Tweet their problems to the Superintendent?  Want to bet how happy that makes principals?  Want to take bets on how this shakes out?


A vision of students, today (thanks, Bug Girl!)

April 30, 2009

Bug Girl put this up, and you can watch it there and comment on it there in a lively and informative discussion, but it’s just too good not to show here:

Teachers, show it to your colleagues, and especially to your librarians and your administrators.

Students, show it to your teachers.

And, go thou and do likewise.

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Oh, and note that Bug Girl’s post was a year ago.

Other stuff to see:


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