Passing school exams here is a huge deal here. Some high school students can be in their mid-twenties, either due to their families not having the money for school fees or because they did not pass the national exams at the end of the school year. To move onto what would be grades 11, 12 and to pass high school and go to university, every student must sit and pass the national exam.
Last night, Shaun and I went to our tailor. Yes, we do have a personal tailor, who is the host mom of the other married couple in our training group. While we were there describing what outfits we wanted for our swearing-in ceremony, her younger daughter received a phone call saying she passed her 12 grade national exam, meaning she successfully graduated from high school! She ran out of the house, screaming and crying, her mom teared up, and it took her about twenty minutes to regain composure. While we felt bad sitting in on this personal moment for their family, it was something unique to experience. It made me realize a little bit more the gravity of graduating high school here; it is a huge accomplishment. We felt as though saying “felicitations!”, or congratulations, didn’t do a justice to what she just accomplished.
When we got home, the power was out at our house. As we prepared our dinner using headlamps and kerosene lamps, a similar scene broke out at our house. Our mama received a phone call that our younger sister passed her national exam and can now enter 11th grade. She went screaming and yelling through the house to inform all of the other kids that our sister had passed her exam. Our sister just left yesterday to go on vacation with her friends in Yaounde, so she wasn’t there to take part in the celebration and commotion. Shortly after, two family friends arrived to celebrate with our parents on our sister’s accomplishment. Mama sent our brother out to get beers for them and Mama graciously shared hers with Shaun.
School here, passing national exams, and graduating from high school, are so dramatically different from America. While I was always congratulated and rewarded for good grades at school, it was also expected and given that I would pass each school year, graduate high school, and be able to attend college. Moments like last night really make us realize how lucky we are to have had such a strong educational career thus far. We are very excited for those two girls who passed their national exams!