They shelter the lazy and incompetent and at the same time discourage and beat down the eager and hard-working. Then get rid of the bad and hire new teachers who have plenty of ambition and energy. Somewhere along the way we not only took away the ability for teachers to punish our kids, but we opened our big mouths and told our kids they were untouchable.
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My name is Francois Lemain. In the s my wife and I operated a small school and boarding house in what was then the Belgian Congo. Our school was for the daughters of English-speaking foreigners. There were a few similar schools in the country, but they were only for boys. My wife, an American, was outraged by this "discrimination" and urged me to use my teaching talents in the upbringing of young ladies.
While I had severe doubts as to the economic viability of such an undertaking, when Sarah put her father's money on the table, I wasn't going to argue. We bought a rather large house about two hours from Mbandaka, the nearest city of notable size.
I spent the summer as foreman to a crew of workers who converted the building into a school and rooming house, while Sarah took charge of recruitment.
She notified the British and American embassies of our intentions, and soon we had a number of inquiries. There was indeed a demand for my services, though it wasn't as high as Sarah had anticipated. We restricted entry to students 12 to 19 years old.
We wanted girls old enough to live on their own, away from their families, and though that didn't apply to the non-residents, I had decided I didn't want a large range of students.
With a narrow group of ages more academic material could apply to the whole group rather than one or two students. It was a formula that worked.
That first year we had three permanent residents and two day students. It wasn't much, but it was a start. We gave those girls all we had. For the next couple years the school struggled, but gradually our reputation spread.
Parents admired our passion for strict discipline and high moral behavior, and felt secure sending their daughters to live with us. Due to the small number of students I was able to devote a great deal of time to personal tutoring, and our girls excelled academically. By the fourth year we had nine girls living with us and seven others attending in the daytime.
That proved to be typical -- in the history of the school we never had more than 23 in one year, and 15 students was average. Many of these girls who attended our school weren't American or British.
All of them spoke excellent English -- it was a requirement we could not waive, as I did not have time to teach language and lessons simultaneously. We had expected most of the girls to come from the families of wealthy businessmen and embassy personnel, but to our surprise, quite a few of our girls were the daughters of foreign missionaries.Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by a student.
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Author Kelly Condit-Shrestha is a transnational U.S. historian of migration, childhood, adoption, and critical race, and Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
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