February 2, 2009

2/2/09 Teacher's Day

Well, classes have started to settle down a bit. I think my student rolls have stabilized and my final totals add up to 113. This semester sure is a lot different than when I arrived here last September. Although I'm very busy because of using a new textbook, I seem to have a lot more confidence with the material and how I'm presenting it.

Something new I got to participate in was scholarships. The center sees the English department as part of it's social outreach, helping improve people's lives through better English fluency. For most people, speaking better English can lead to better education and job opportunities. With that in mind, we charge just enough ($25/semester) to cover our expenses which still puts us far down the scale compared to English school businesses.

Even so, there still are people who can't afford our classes, so we have started a scholarship program or what I'd rather we called financial aid. Students are to write a short essay why they should get help. Iff they are still in school, they need to show us their grades and if they are out of school, they need to bring some tax information about the family income.

So, after that, the students come in for an interview. Don't tell them I would have given them all a scholarship without the interview. I believe they all showed a need. But it was nice to talk to them, even if it was through an interpreter. Tsetsegee and I were on the interview panel along with Davaa, the acting-director of the center. Like almost every modern culture, getting your children better opportunities in life seems so expensive.

We had several families who had more than one person in our classes but couldn't pay for them all. A few were either single mothers or children of single mothers. One young man couldn't even go to university this semester because the medical bills for his younger brother took everything the family had.

And unfortunately, this process isn't foolproof. We had one young woman refered to us by Save The Children and we gladly gave her a scholarship. But we failed to look into her situation deep enough because she stopped coming after a few classes for what we think was because she didn't have the money for bus fare to get here twice a week. And because of her families poverty, there is no way to reach her.

But we learned and will be working a lot harder, not only in helping these students attend our classes, but also helping them if they need it with school supplies, bus fare, clothing, dictionaries and books. If you'd like to help in any way, you can see I added a DONATE button. Every penny donated will go to needy people like the students above. I hope to highlight specific needs here at the center and the community we serve in future posts.

The surprise of the week came when they said we were going out to lunch to celebrate Teacher's Day. Yes, there is a nationally recognized Teacher's day, and from what I gather, being a teacher is one of the most respected professions in Mongolia. So, Tsetsgee and I, along with Glenda, our newest Buddhism teacher, had lunch with the rest of the staff at a nearby restaurant.

Celebrating at a nearby Korean restaurant

Teachers: Tsetsgee, Jim & Glenda