Thursday, December 5, 2013

ABC: Application Boot Camp - Sleep Deprivation Training

I am so exhausted.  And drained.  And spent.  

Raissa, Esther, Poet, Du and Jeaninne working on Applications

Immaculee, Francine and Jean Bosco - yes there's an app for that

Tonto Eric visits to lend support and one zillion recommendation letters

There's no way these photos can display the complete chaos of the past few weeks.  After exams finished in the village twenty senior 6 (seniors) students were allowed to stay in the village for two weeks to work on university applications. They were selected based in their grades and a mid-year college essay writing exercise.  These are some of the top students in the village.  The thinking is that these are the students that will have the best chance of being accepted and receiving a scholarship to a university.

They had really not started working on college applications at all before their national leaving exam.  Everyone is laser focused on studying for this exam, basically all year, but especially third term and it's hard to get them to think about anything else.  Now, with exams finished, they're all supposed to go home, but the catch is home probably does not have electricity, let alone a computer, and in the age of online university applications this is a real barrier.

So we hosted this program where the students could stay after school and work on applications.  There were actually 21, 1 student from last year.  They were working on applications primarily for MasterCard Foundation Scholarships like UBC, McGill, University of Toronto, Arizona State University and Michigan State University and some other possible scholarship opportunities.

I had thought it would be a fun couple of weeks, answering few questions.  Reading a few essays.  It was fun, but it was insane.

I had 10 'counselees'.  So many of the form application questions make no sense if you're Rwandan.  Address? No one in Rwanda has an address (we use the school's).  First Name and Last Name (given name / family name) are even a big discussion.  Rwandan's (like Imaculee Mugwaneza) have two names, a western and a Rwandan, but neither follow from your family and they think of Mugwaneza as first.  Don't even get me started on 'What is the value of your home?"  The kids had never filled out any forms like these.

And the applications are complicated.  For just one, first you apply to the school, request an application fee waiver, send transcripts, letters of recommendation, letters of financial validation AND then you apply for the scholarship, with the same biographical data forms again, then tons of financial information and then lots and lots of essays. For just one student, and just one school it is a lengthy complicated process.

Add 20 students, all hoping to apply to many schools. Mix in regular power outages that caused kids to lose their work (Save! Save! Save frequently please!) Documents need to be completed, printed, signed by people all over the village, scanned, the PDF file size needs to be shrunk and then, then you can submit part of an application.

The students would be at my house asking questions at 6 AM.  Serge showed up while I was taking a shower.  "I'm in the shower, Serge!  Can I have a few minutes?"  He replied "No Problem" and started shouting his questions at me.  KIds stayed in the computer lab working until 2 or 3 AM.

I had real trouble setting limits.  "No I don't have time to answer this question that is simple for me but a complete unknown for you and blocks you from applying to follow your life dream." So there were ten baby birds, loudly chirping, and one very tired robin flying to get a worm, grab a cup of coffee on the way back, give the worm to one baby bird who is unsatisfied and see 9 others squawking their heads off.

Camp was scheduled to run from November 11 through the 22nd.  But on the 23rd none of them left.  "We're not finished.  We have more questions."  To be fair the power had been out for long stretches ever single day of ABC.  Finally, on Tuesday Nov 26, I left, as an escape plan and because I needed to start visiting the remainder of the girls from Eleanor Roosevelt (more on that soon). They are still calling and showing up in Kigali with questions.  My guess now is that this will 'end' when all the applications are due.

It's a very difficult process.  I'm not sure if any of them will succeed.  However, we will have tried.  I think maybe the practice of applying, and paying attention to every detail on the application will be good for everyone who made the effort.

I would like to go to sleep for a week, but I need to visit the rest of my girls from Eleanor Roosevelt and start getting ready to come home.

Breaking: I'll be back in the US in December.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

you gave it your all.
i love u