Monday, May 16, 2011

Recent Events in Egypt, Church, and School

I just happened to exit the underground metro right next to a church. I was supposed to wait here and call my friend, whom I was planning to meet in about 10 minutes. Instead I quickly crossed the street, caught a cab and had the driver take me to our meeting place. I had been planning on a leisurely walk ,however, next to the church there was a small group of protesters. Given that there was an occurrence of violence the night before, I thought I should just move on from the area.

Although we have both had a few experiences such as this, mostly things here are going on as normal for us. Church still meets and worships, kids and teachers are getting ready for school again. People want change, but they also want normal life. And so there seems to be a kind of ebb and flow throughout the country. We make normal plans with the understanding that our plans could change and that is OK.

Changes at Church
In St. Andrew's church life, May is a month of movement. People are finishing up their work, so they can take the summer off. Many people here leave the country for the summer. Already, congregation members are making plans and getting ready. Also congregation members who have finished their work in Egypt have left, returning to their home countries. And more are getting ready to go. Thus is the life of an international congregation. We are brought together in Christ. We stay together and share in community. For some this community is simply a place to worship, for others this community serves as an extended family. We enjoy each other while we can, and then we go our separate ways. I guess this is the story of life, but it’s accelerated in this community.

Success at School
In April the StARS Children's Education program received great news! 13 of our 8th graders have passed their exams and can move on to secondary (high) school. This is a wonderful achievement for the students and for the school. Last year, only 3 students graduated 8th grade and this year we feared the cancellations in January and February would really hurt their studies. Instead these amazing students, who have weathered so much in life already, beat the odds again and achieved beyond expectations! We are so proud of them!

Just for a little perspective; finishing 8th grade in the Sudanese curriculum is not as easy as it in the U.S. Homework, classwork, previous exams- none of this counts in the end. It all comes down to a series of exams. This would be something like needing to pass the SAT to graduate 8th grade. The students take one exam per subject. The scores for each student are tallied and if the total exam is high enough, the student passes. For those students who have passed, they now have a primary school certificate. That, in and of itself is a great achievement for many students. Furthermore, they can now continue in secondary school at St. Andrew's.

I recently spent a couple of weeks gathering information about the students in our Adult Education classes. I was amazed that we had students with all sorts of previous education. I was specifically surprised by large numbers of two groups; people who have a master's degree and people who have never been to school, not even kindergarten. Overall, I think most of our Adult students have a primary school education only. This reminded me how important all of our school programs are!

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