one of the most confusing things for me to attempt to wrap my mind around is the school system. because i didn't go through this system or have a child going through it, understanding of it seems to elude me. this is what i know:
-creche (preschool) is now required for a child to be able to enter into grade 1.
-the levels are grade 1-7 and then form 1-6. grades correspond with the grades in america. forms seem to track with high school but not exactly.
-there are exams all the time. exams are a big deal here because that is what the schools use to pass or fail a student. exams are also used for school placement.
-there are also "O" levels (ordinary) or "A" levels (Advanced) which effect your ability to get into "varsity" (University) or a job. it is common to see job advertisments that say something like, "you must have passed 5 O levels, including english and computers".
-the schools function in 3 month terms with a month holiday at april, august, and december.
-every school has a uniform and a "sport" uniform. the everyday uniform includes: a hat, a shirt, a tie, trousers (for winter), a skirt for girls, shorts for boys, a sweater, socks, and shoes. some also have blazers and bakcpacks that include the school crest.
-there is a fee for every school- rural to city, private to government. some schools also have "top-ups" for the teachers because teachers have a low salary. at boarding schools there is also a donation of groceries.
-no lunch is served at school. the typical day starts between 7:30 and 8am and ends by 12:30 to 1pm. (lunch here is from 1-2pm)
-all school is in english.
i have no idea how one goes about choosing a school but i do know that it is a very important and difficult event in a parent's life. yesterday in bible study my friend, a mother of a 4 year old, asked us to pray for her son's school placement next year! they have already gotten letters stating there is no room for him at that school. immediately after that the lady next to me leaned over and said: "have you put olivia's name on a list for creche yet?" i said, "no, she is 6 months old!" to which she responded, "yes, so you had better do it soon." i just sat there astonished by the thought.
school fees are an issue all in themselves. people are always in need of school fees for their children. i have no idea how much school fees are in town but in the rural areas they are $30 a term, $90 a year (not including books, pens/pencils, paper, and the uniform). at the beginning of each term it never fails to see school children not in school. when you ask why the answer is: we didn't pay school fees yet. my american brain has a hard time understanding such things. it is illegal to not send your children to school in america. here the school sends your child home until you can pay.
our gardener works at our house in the afternoon and works in the morning at a creche in town. he was telling me that the creche is in english so he cannot speak shona to the children at all. this creche has set itself apart by offering lessons in english, gymnastics, swimming, drama and speech. so because everyone wants their child to get ahead they are willing to send them to a school that offers the best programs. but these top schools also come with top prices. this particular creche costs $1300 a term!
so there you have it friends. just one of the many things i have yet to understand.