The majority of our kids will be having their first exams of the year later this month. (Stephanie, Argentine, Kattia, Alex and Evens Auguste will have theirs at College Maranatha on Oct 22nd-26th). At Marion G. Austin, the school that is run by HFC, exams are held 4 times a year and they are essentially the only determinants of a child's grades. All the material that has been covered in each class over the past quarter will be on the exams, and in typical European style schooling, a lot of memorization is required, especially for the younger children. Last year, our kids did reasonably well on the October exams, and then horribly on the December and February exams. In February, only 9 boys passed their exams! For the younger ones, this was bad, but for the older kids, it was catastrophic. A few boys were "put on probation" - told that if they could not pass in school, they would be kicked out of the orphanage. Emmanuel was one of those boys, and Dr Bernard charged me with the project of helping him succeed. I started tutoring him every day after school, although he honestly didn't need tutoring as much as he needed someone to push him and motivate him to try.
The week of April exams was one of the craziest weeks of my life. I would study with the girls in the early afternoon and then cross over to the boys' house to study with Emmanuel and the other 9th grade boys. They had so much material to learn and Emmanuel was so poorly prepared that I ended up spending the night with them all week so that we could study right until 10pm and then start again at 5am when we woke up. It was exhausting, but in the end, absolutely worth it: Emmanuel not only passed, he got a 7.51 average and was 6th in his class of 18 students. At my going-away party in May, he thanked me and promised that he would succeed all year and for the rest of his life. He did quite well on the official exams in June, so now we see whether he can continue fulfilling that promise. In addition to helping Emmanuel, the tutoring and that one week of intensive study really solidified my relationships with the older boys. It was miraculous to be able to spend that much time with them without the girls getting jealous and to get to know their personalities a little better. I have so many mental snapshots of that week: Mathurin, so incredibly smart, writing math problems on the board for the others to solve; Jacques, also ridiculously smart, sneaking looks at his notes while I was quizzing them; Argusto, reciting 4 pages of biology notes word for word; Jefthe, laughing hopelessly at my illustration of how a mushroom and algue make a lichen; Drisk, complaining that I wasn't giving him enough attention when he already knew his material inside out; Bernadin, running downstairs to get me a drink when I started getting hoarse from talking too much; Peterson and Renick getting my futon ready for me to sleep on; Richecarde and Stev running by to whack me on the head and yell "Zoklo!"; all of the boys crowding on my bed for a study break when the lights went out...Priceless.
Emmanuel is not the only one who has trouble with examinations. Job, Richecarde, Stev, Reginald, and Camille always struggle. For the girls, Nadia, Merline Jean, Carmelle, and Wislandy have had difficulties. Often it is simply a matter of too much memorization and not enough hands-on practice or comprehension. Sometimes, it's a lack of motivation or structure during study times. Chrystel, for example, was the only girl in her class who failed her exams in December so she put her foot down and ended up 2nd in her class for the next quarter. But then she lost her push and failed the exams in April. Others, such as Jessica and Jefthe, who are very smart kids, failed one set of exams last year because they did poorly on just one subject. Please pray that our kids will be able to help one another prepare, that they will understand why school is so important and that they will find motivation to persevere. Pray for patience for the nannies who have to listen to hours of recitation, and pray for fair grading.