Joined: 08 Sep 2007
|Posted: Sat Jun 23, 2012 8:03 pm Post subject: MacMillan Academy in Addis Ababa
|In Addis there are many sham educational companies (AKA schools) that pretend to be enlightening their offspring and Macmillan is one more company whose main goal is the extraction of money to make shareholders wealthy, with very little regard for the institution, or the children who attend there.
This company brings dishonesty to another level. If someone were to Google Macmillan Academy they would find a link to a school in England. There is absolutely no correlation between the school in England and the school in Addis Ababa, ABSOLUTELY NONE!! Yet because they are located in the capital of Ethiopia, with several branch campuses, nothing is ever said about its name sake in England. Anyone that were British and were familiar with this school would say that it is definitely misleading.
Upon arriving at their Gurjie (sp) campus I understood that I should get a work permit. Itís understandable right? I mean that, for it to take place I was told to go to Djibouti (I have been too many countries and this one is one is the worst) and there I would be able to secure a work visa. Wrong; I had to fly back without a work visa and continued to work illegally (if someone from the labor department in Ethiopia is reading this, I would pay special attention to this company). I also flew there at my own expense. I was also told that I would be reimbursed for airfare and thats another story. It took me about 3 months to secure payment for this trip and I had to walk, yes that right walk several kilometers on numerous different occasions just to get my promised reimbursement back, It was short, What a surprise. Not my much, but for any company to short change any employ does not bode well for future relations. I choose not to say anything, since a few dollars, or the equivalent thereof is not going to make me wealthy or put me in the poor house either way. For me it was a foreboding sign, as to the integrity and honesty that was yet to come.
Anyway, I finally received my work permit by flying back to my home country as should have been the case. Then when arriving back in Addis, I was expecting help to process my work permit and residency papers. Wrong again; I come to find out that I had to be responsible for all that paperwork and make repeated trips to Immigration. After some time and taxi fare (again my expense); I was in the country legally. Keep in mind that I was working illegally for about five months. It is to be expected that the administrator or some high ranking official with the company, in the office must have to take care of this matter. Especially since the teacher has gone through so much thus far, in order to work for their corporation, and make them money. I guess if they donít have to do it then it does not get done. I really donít understand this attitude, but then again itís not my country. It was done during the school day, and I should have been in class and not running around trying to put everything in order. Itís not my business, so I just remained quiet.
Discipline was almost none existent. Rarely does anyone ever get expelled at the school. There have been repeated infractions for fighting, destruction of school property. This type of behavior is common place and accepted behavior at Macmillan. A boy once was caught smoking pot off campus. Basically the students run the campus, because there is such a lack of clear cut rules and regulations. I mean they are all written down and send home with the students; however the rules and regulations in black and white were never followed. If a student were misbehaving they would either have to kneel in the corner, be whipped with a plastic hose on the playground, or my option was to wait until class was over, and speak with the principal, so that corrective measures could be put into place. Going to the principalís office was a last resort and used only when other management techniques failed. Speaking for myself, a stern reprimand followed by speaking with the student after class should suffice, but if this was not successful, then we would visit the principalís office. I have also tried to make them stay in the library during break time. Often they would just run and hide. I think it was like a game for them. Trying to track down the worst perpetrators day after day became exhausting. It began to eat into my workload and no help from anyone, so I just gave up. I would never put a child on their knees or whip them like other faculty would, including the principal. Ok, so once at the principalís office the dialog would go like this. I would start out by explain to the principal the reason for the visit and then be followed up by the pupils version, then they would be made to say ďI am sorry mister and will never do it againĒ, followed by me having to say bla, bla donít do it again, and the very next day, the behavior would continue. Once, or, maybe twice, but sooner or later harsher punishment needs to be doled out. This rarely happened. Of course, why would the company upset the balance of things by calling the parents with a discipline issue from the office? Joey and Mary are complete angels and will never do anything wrong. Out of sight and out of mind. If nothing is said then the status quo prevails and the behavior continues.
The dress code is virtually the same as in public schools. The enforcement of the dress code is extremely lax, to put it generously. Unbuttoned shirts, pants that are not tucked in, wearing hats, unlaced shoes are the norm here. Even after repeatedly bring told to dress properly, some students will tuck in their shirts, and dress themselves in the proper fashion for about 5 minutes. After a short time, or after one of the faculty looks or walks away, that same student will then undo the tidiness they have just availed themselves from. A few of them will even come to school with buttons missing and torn pants. To the credit of most of the Muslim pupils at the company, they do tend to take better care of themselves by dressing appropriately, and for that it was a refreshing sight.
The lineup ceremony is not taken seriously. Getting everyone in line and getting everyone to stand at attention without talking is hopeless. Forming a straight line looked more like people waiting in line at a rock concert. There was absolutely no correlation what so ever. For that everyone shares in the blame. I tried to do my best. Some students took the attitude, that I was singeing them out for whatever reason. I would think that in a private school the students would be held to a higher standard, but unfortunately they are not.
At the end of the lineup ceremony everyone should sing the national anthem. When singing the national anthem of Ethiopia only a few 5th graders would sing it with zest. The older grade levels would just deliberately sing out of tune, or out of tempo. It constantly reminded me of Ozzy Osborne singing Puccini's 'Tosca. It was totally disrespectful, not only to the national anthem, but to the faculty, school, city, and most importantly, Ethiopia. The level of unyielding contempt was astounding. At least it felt that way.
Classrooms were always in disarray. Blackboards with holes in them, some have bad spots where writing in that area was impossible, when where was no one in the room the students would always destroy the desks, Company equipment was always vandalized in a constant state of disrepair, and thatís just the physical condition of the school. Imagine having 50 students in approximately a 15x30 square foot space and the only windows were facing the courtyard. There is zero ventilation in these rooms. Itís like teaching in a can of sardines. One day several children passed out and their parents had to be called. Do you think the management cares??? Hell no, they just want Birr. Yea thatís right fifty students, one classroom, one teacher, and no ventilation. The ministry of education, I am sure was not informed about the ventilation problem at this company, or the matter would have been rectified. Having fifty students in a classroom in Ethiopia is quite normal at most schools, by the way. I am sure nothing has been done to fix the ventilation problem yet. Also there was a sever water problem at the school. If one person gets sick, then they all get sick, including the teachers. Ethiopia has water problems in Addis, and most companies would have a water tank on hand to make up the short fall. Now imagine a school with no running water. The sickness that follows from the lack of sanitary water is immeasurable. They donít care. For them itís all about the money.
In this school as well as other schools in the country, there are a few students that really should not be in a classroom atmosphere without professional counseling. These are the students that have undiagnosed social and mental problems. I have often come in contact with students that display systems of manic depression and ADD. Others come to school simply because their parents want to dump them off there. Others simply have no time for their children because they have business abroad and are preoccupied with them. These are the parents that allow their cook and maid to raise their children on the weekends, at nighttime and early morning. Some students come from broken homes where they donít have parents. Maybe the mother or father is absent. The rest of the time it becomes the school responsibility to teach those social graces, manners, and how to behave. These are the students that grow up with a since of entitlement, because no one has ever said no to them before. One student of mine whose parents own the school could do no wrong. He would repeatedly disrupt the classroom without any fear of reprisal, or punishment. That same student was banned from attending a school field trip, because he did not come to school dressed in the proper school uniform. This pupil proceeded to call up his parents and whine that the principal would not let him on the bus, imagine that. The owners (parents) response was to purchase a nice and new sent of formal wear and drive him to the school outing. What message does that send to the young people that will inherit the mess the parents are causing? I did not sign up for this, nor do I have mental capacity, or the educational background to deal with young students like this. I am not a psychiatrist, or a social worker, and these factors are much more than what was given in the job description, for anyone for that matter. Yet that is still what is expected.
They also were demanding teachers to write new textbooks with no extra pay. Someone had a brilliant idea one day that new text booksÖ.. Wonderful right??? Well not if their expecting the teachers to write the new text books from scratch. Teachers are teachers, we are not authors. I guess in their infinite wisdom they did the math and figured out it would be cheaper to have the teachers write new textbooks instead of going out and buying them. They asked me to do it and I said how much are you going to pay me. That was the end of that conversation. I am sure the Habasha teachers were paid not a centeen (cent) more, and as a ghost writer no less. I might have done it if they would have paid me maybe 30 dollars an hour, but they were too cheap to even think about it, I am sure. Besides it would hurt their bottom line.
Cheating is common place here. In grading their workbooks (those that bothered to turn them in) I would often, and in each and every class, see that someone is copying someone elseís work. Thatís just the start. On their exams, there almost seem to be a competition to see who can get away with cheating. This happened at every exam period, in every grade level that I was to invigilate. School policy was to have 2 teachers present in the classroom, however often there was only one, it did not matter if there was two or one teacher present, and cheating and attempting to cheat was pervasive. If a student was caught cheating, the principal and administration tell the offending student simply ďdonít do it againĒ. Nothing was ever done to correct or dissuade this culture. I personally witnessed a student trying to pass test answers during an exam. When I brought it to the attention of the administrator (the childís father), his replied ďI should punish herĒ. I just thought to myself, youíre asking me to do your job again? The standard operating procedure was to say to the student ďdonít do it again baka (finished or enough)Ē.
Teachers are required to work on Saturdays for national exams and after school. Core subject teachers were required to work after school for students lagging in the fundamentals of the topic being taught. School on Saturdays in January was compulsory for students, and core subject teachers, in order to prepare for National Exams. Oh joy right. I am not aware that the faculty received any compensation for coming in on Saturday, but were suppose to be compensated for after school employmentÖÖÖin theory. In theory because the pay schedule was like this. The teacher would receive payment on a portion of the after school fees that were received from the office. Quite often the school never received payment even though their students were attending after school studies. Guess whose job it was to sort it all out? Thatís right the teachers were supposed to find out who was paying and who was not paying. All this was done in addition to their already busy schedule. After all why should the school figure it out when they have already received their money and really did not care whether or not the teachers were paid. Kudos go out to the administrator and management.
They used my image as a marketing tool without my consent. I am sure that anyone that anyone that has been to Ethiopia, and watches TV is aware of whom I am. I am on a TV commercial they made of me without my consent. Cameras come into my classroom and when I ask what this, their response was ďit is to be used for a yearbookĒ. I took it at face value. Later I come to realize that they made a commercial with the video and said nothing about it. LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE! None of this comes as any surprise to me, understanding the character of this type of behavior, from them and so many other schools like this in Addis. Managementís philosophy is to live by the golden rule and that is ďhe who has the gold, makes the rulesĒ. Shallow, I know, but then again I am grateful. I am grateful that I am not as shallow and dishonest as some people.
Breaking contracts illegally. So, now they have broken the contract which was signed by three people. After returning from America that year in September and expecting to fulfill my contractual obligations, I come to find that they presented me with an ultimatum. It went like this. We would be very happy if you would be able to renew a contract with us for the upcoming school year. Only one catch was that it would be for half the salary. I was waiting for them to pay my contractual salary for the summer. It never happened. When it became obvious that I had no intention of staying another year with that company, they simply dismissed me by saying that I cost the school too much money. LOL! Nice, such wonderful integrity and honesty they have. I would never have gone back to Ethiopia if I had known that there was no job waiting for me. They are liarís cheats and thieves. Shortly thereafter I spoke with a lawyer about this matter and he had insured me that they were liable in this matter. According to him it was a real strong chance the judge would rule in my favor. In fact I am not the only teacher with a similar complaint. Five other teachers have filed suit and have the same problem with the owners and administration there. Not only that, but a previous director has also sued them through litigation. So for anyone that does not agree with this post (and I am absolutely sure there will be a few vested interests reading this), apparently you have really bad management styles that need to be rectified if you want to run an educational business.
My advice to you is to fire yourself and get someone that is qualified to do the job. You have no business in education because you have no credentials to be in the education field. Next, find a way to make amends to find peace in this world, unless your parents brought you up as liars, cheats, and thieves, in which case there is no hope for you. Treat people fairly and donít be so damn greedy. Finally, show some respect to your teachers and not treat them like sheep being let to slaughter. People have feelings and the more you step on people, the more people will step on you. I am sure you know what this means in Islam. Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
So, unfortunately, schools of this caliber are the norm in Addis and are not worth taking seriously. The only reason for a foreigner to work there is purely for marketing value. There is no added professional value in working for schools like this. It seriously is no wonder why Ethiopia ranks as one of the worst educational systems in the world. Just try to Google university rankings worldwide to confirm this fact. Outside of Addis is another story. I have been to places where students number 60 in one classroom. Some schools have only homemade benches with homemade desks, and dirt floors. I have seen students walking up and down a mountain in order to get to school. Itís not a short walk either. Travel time by foot can be as much as 1.25 hours. Thatís motivation if you ask me! At least this is what I witnessed in one particular village in the north. In rural Ethiopia, students beg for pencils. In Addis they beg for money. Yes, some students would ask me to lend them birr until the next day. They almost never paid me back. I did lend one nice girl some money on more than one occasion and was pleasantly surprised when she was able to pay me back when she promised. I guess that was because she was from England.
That is not to say that teachers do try. The good educators leave such rubbish schools and others remain, because they feel that their options are limited. This is especially if itís in the middle of the school year. At the beginning of the year all these schools give the impression that everything is wonderful and quaint. After some time the contrast is very apparent. By that time contracted staff has no other option, but to stick it out and have to suffer through all the BS of dealing with a company like this.
The real shame in all of this is that there are some really bright and gifted students in this school and it they sincerely do not need this kind of flak from the other students. They are children and everyone around them is doing them an incredible, dishonorable service. The company should be ashamed!! Yet they continue to pat themselves on the back every time they count their money, over, and over, and over again. All I can say is FOR SHAME, FOR SHAME, and FOR SHAME!!!
My advice to anyone that is planning to teach in Ethiopia is to work for international schools such as ICS, Stafford, and BIS. Other schools may say they are international, but that will be garbage. Anyone can call their organization an international school, but itís nothing more than a marketing ploy. Donít work for them. At the schools mentioned, I have heard positive feedback and I would recommend anyone that wants to teach in Ethiopia to work there. However if the rural setting is more to your liking, then I would recommend a volunteer position. You will not get paid, but sometimes there is more to life than monetary value. I could recommend English Alive Academy in Nazerit. I can vouch for the director there. She is a very nice woman and honorable IMHO. Another is a school in Kotobe, that was featured on the CNN sometime ago (canít remember the name at the moment) that sounds more intrinsically rewarding than any school I have ever worked for.
Actually, I have become burnt out with teaching. I am tired of being a dancing clown for others. From my experience in Ukraine where the director wanted to turn me into a drug mule and smuggle his Valium and Vicodin, to the language mills like Aston in China where the director wanted all the foreign staff to sign a document saying we would not leave the city and to voluntarily, submit to a curfew. The guy would smoke incessantly all the time in school, as well as sleep with the janitor in the same room, AT THE SCHOOL (donít ask me what they were doing, but I think it was something cultural which I didnít understand), to having been lied to, and cheated repeatedly in Ethiopia. I AM DONE TEACHING, for a while anyway (never say never). Anyone reading this post, heed my advice, and seriously make sure you know what you are getting into, no matter what country you are planning to teach in.