The School Situation


Exchange students are the best students
Exchange students are the best students

I go to a private school called Henrique Castriciano for my regular school day classes Monday through Friday from 7:15am to 1:15pm. My host mother pays for this school. I am one of six rotary inbounds that attends this school. The other two inbounds attend other private schools in the city.

Henrique Castriciano is a private school. Our host parents pay for their exchange children to attend these private schools. At these private schools, we are not expected to do any of the classwork, homework, or take any of the tests. We are expected to attend school every day and sit in the class while the teachers lecture. There is never any classwork for the students to do. Each class, including math, consists of a lecture for the entire block. And the teachers speak fast, so even if I wanted to pay attention to what they are saying, I’m only catching words and phrases here and there and the next thing I notice I’m completely zoned out and five minutes have passed.

At the end of our classmates’ high school careers, they will take a test to determine their entrance to university. Therefore, class consists entirely of the material that will be covered on the entrance test to university.

As you can surmise, this is not the case for the exchange students. For every single one of us, school (in a grading standpoint) does not matter. Either we have already graduated or upon return to our host countries we will have to take the year over again.

The teachers do not care what the exchange students do in class (with the exception of the physics teacher, for some reason that none of us can figure out). Chen sleeps every day. The rest of us mess with our phones, read books, write letters, etc.

I’ve never known a person in the world to not complain about school at one point or another, and the Rotary Exchange Students of Natal 2015-2016 are no exception. We all hate school so much. We just want some work to do or something to make the time go by faster. The only thing that we are all united in liking about school is time in between lessons and the thirty minute break in the middle of classes since we can actually talk to our classmates and friends.

As for activities, yes, they are offered at Henrique Castriciano, if you want to pay an extra fee. And soccer practice is still only two days a week with the extra payment.

The Rotary Exchange Students of Natal 2015-2016 go to a public school called IFRN on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a Portuguese class. IFRN is often proclaimed by anyone you ask on the street anywhere as the best public school in the state because it is federally run, not state run. Even the kids at HC (Henrique Castriciano, the private school) say it is a really good school.

The exchange students from the international youth exchange program of AFS attend IFRN for their everyday schooling. This is completely free of charge. IFRN is not a traditional school. You can choose classes. You might be able to learn how to cook or take a carpentry class. Furthermore, the activities that are offered by IFRN are completely free as well. And, if you join the IFRN soccer team, practice is every day.

The Rotary Exchange Students of Natal 2015-2016 are practically salivating we are so desperate to go to IFRN. Even if we get stuck in some boring class like biology where we have to listen to a lecture, hey, at least there’s a gym on campus that’s free of charge to all students.

So, the natural step is to ask our host parents why we are required to attend a private school. The answer is quite simple. We are not allowed to go to any public school since Rotary is concerned that the teachers of IFRN take too many strikes and we will not go to school for a long period of time.

Chiara, my German friend
Chiara, my German friend

A perfectly valid opinion. At this point, however, I think I’ve been in school as much as I’ve been out of school. Since we aren’t required to take the tests, the exchange students are always being told that we have to go to the classrooms of the small children and give presentations about our countries. This has yet to happen and it’s been a month for me, and two to three months for the rest of them. We end up sitting in a corner of the classroom talking, sleeping, reading, playing games, etc. So we’ve all taken to ditching school on the testing days, since there aren’t classes on those days. Furthermore, there have been random school holidays that no one is sure of the reason for. At this point, the AFS students in IFRN have been in school more than the Rotary students have been and the Rotary students are the ones paying.

Another reason that Rotary gave us for not being allowed to go to public school is that at public school, there are drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol are everywhere, folks. You just need to look.

The next step would be to ask our host parents what their reaction would be if we were interested in enrolling at IFRN. So far, all of the parents say that they think we should go to IFRN instead of private school. I asked my mom about it and she was all in, and the next thing I knew she was calling all of the other moms and asking their opinion.

Parents Against Private Schools. Check.

Exchange Students Against Private Schools. Check.

(These aren’t actual organizations, people, I just made them up. But you get the idea.)

The next step? Talk to Rotary. On Monday, I will be talking to my club counselor at my Rotary meeting. Also, at the end of this month, all the inbounds will be having a meeting with Clarice, one of the bigwigs in Rotary, to see who our next host families are. Then we will bring up the School Situation with her, though she’s probably already heard about it since some of the other inbounds have already talked to their counselors.

Best possible outcome: Rotary answers our pleas and we are in IFRN by next month.

Next best possible outcome: We get out of school for summer sometime in November and Rotary lets us change schools for the next school year. Personally, I think that this is likely to happen.

Other possible outcome: Rotary says no and we stay in our private schools. While I obviously don’t want this to happen, I won’t really be upset because at least I do have friends at HC and I’ve gotten more writing done in the past few weeks than I have in the past year.



5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Sounds like switching would be perfect. Good job on advocating for yourselves!

  2. Sounds like a frustrating situation, but you’re rocking it by doing research and advocating for yourself. An awesome education in and of itself! Go Claire!

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