This commentary is intended to enlighten the general public and especially perspective employees. The following is suppose to be informative and not a condemnation, or a ringing endorsement of the current educational system at one particular school. It is just solitary observation of single individual with an inside view, and everyone should take it as that. To truly form an educated opinion, one should thoroughly check out the current or future school where they send their children. This article will refer to Andinet International School at the west campus which is located near Bole Mini.
One resource could be the internet. Google your school! Look at the blogs and boards where people write their own comments about a particular school. This is a great way to see what other people are thinking. Many schools can be found using any ESL (English as a Second Language), TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language), or international school websites. Several of these are ESLcafe.com, ESLEmployment.com, and ESLTeachersboard.com to name a few. There are literally hundreds of sites similar to these that have their own blogs. These sites are not just for TESL, but rather sites that have a wealth of information. Ask if the school has an internet website. The more reputable schools have their own websites complete with information about the school. After looking it up on the internet, pay the school a visit to see if it’s anything like what is professed on the website.
Another resource could be as simple as visiting the school of interest and interviewing the staff there. Are the majority of people working there happy with the management and the facility? Do the students enjoy learning there?
Visit the department of Education and see what they have to say about an institution of interest.
One school that claims to be unified Is Andinet, which the name implies. Andinet is translated into English as unity, and as you continue to read you will discover that “Andinet” is anything but unified.
This is a company that has a history of over promising and under delivering. The American part of the management team should understand about customer service, but then maybe it’s deliberate as this editorial will surmise.
The management staff seems to undermine the workforce in a most devious manner. This happens all the time, except when the management is in a private meetings where it then is quiet apparent that it’s two against one, with a purely skewed point of view. The impression is given of a mafia capo shaking down a store owner that has not paid protection money.
Communication is often confusing. Even at the beginning there are zero precise instructions given. While the introductory training seminars are given just before the start of every school year, they are often rescinded, or changed halfway through the middle of the first term. This leaves many of the teaching staff to wonder what happened to the original instructions. For some reason (which at the moment unexplainable), midterm tests are usually given closer to the end of the term test, or close to the final exam test. They will often present midterm exams late, and not late by a day or so, but often late by weeks at a time. No explanation is ever given to the parents, or the teaching staff. This is not normal operating procedure for any school at any time. Imagine that a newly married couple is expected to make a payment on their condominium, and they are late. What would the bank do in this case? They would probably charge them a fine, or a penalty for being late. Well at Andinet there is never any penalty given for being late on midterm exams, only the inability of their students to prepare for their testes in a timely manner.
There is also a failure to get contracts signed by employees in an expeditious fashion. If you’re a newcomer to the world of teaching abroad you might think that this acceptable and the management team is honest (as you might expect from living in one’s own native country). Nothing could be farther from the truth. If the contract is never signed, then that means management has every clear intention of abusing that particular employee, which has come to work there under the best of intentions. They will mistreat and misuse them to the fullest extent possible. All the time the parents and the students haven’t a clue about what is transpiring.
They are incapable of monitoring the small staff that they have in an objective manner. Instead they rely on gossip and insinuation to make decisions, without any type of objective exploration of the facts. This is absolutely no way to conduct a business in a profitable manner. Andinet has a member of the teaching staff that only teaches four, yes that’s right, four students and still draws a full time salary. There is no obvious reason for that, except to conclude that there is something beneath the surface that allows this to continue. There needs to be a more balanced approach to the workload there. Quite often staff members have to teach upwards of 100 students. In the case of the P.E. Teacher they have to manage teaching the whole school campus. The same holds true about extracurricular activities. One person is left with the duties of one or several people, and the management team says nothing.
Their policy for sick days it truly crazy!! Coming from the west (MOD edit) (Co-owner of Andinet) should understand what a sick day is. According to her, if an employee is sick then that employee should have to visit a clinic and get a doctors excuse in order to get paid. How quaint! Again the impression is a person needs letter from a parent to come back to school. Since the staff at Andinet are adults, why are they made to feel as if they were children? In other countries where people come from they don’t need a doctor’s excuse to return to work. It is understood that if someone is sick then they are sick, period! It is also very implicit, and it is perfectly acceptable to use personal days for sick days, or for any general purpose which is common procedure in other countries around the world.
It is rather common place for Andinet (MOD edit) to change their minds on a whim to suite their agenda whenever it’s convenient to do so. This is not only done in a subjective manner in which they define “personal days’, but with respect to anything and everything else they dictate, in and out of meetings. They appear to make decisions based on personal feelings and innuendoes brought forth by themselves and/or other people in order to intentionally, or unintentionally further their agendas. They often appear or give the impression that they are making decisions based on popularity, rather than an objective and informed opinion.
It is understood that Andinet recruits foreign teachers with experience, although most of them are not licensed, nor are they certified from the countries they came from. Any teacher that does have these qualifications would be already working for ICS or Sanford. Those that do have these credentials and work experience are better off seeking employment elsewhere. Andinet is extremely privileged to have anyone with these qualifications. However once a competent teacher appears, it is assumed that they will move on in the near future. Therefore, the management has no right to complain about the quality of the staff it hires. In America there is a cliché that goes like this “You get what you pay for.” In any case it is a direct reflection of (MOD edit), and the management style which they aspire to.
To their credit, their motives are in the right place, where schooling (and it is a for profit company) is concerned. Andinet could also have a strong desire for education motivated by greed. However since the top administration as no managerial skills what so ever, they should be humble enough to hire someone that has excellent managerial skills managing a business of greater the fifty people with some type of background in education, but then again they seem to know everything and humility is not one of their finer qualities.
They do however have many extra-circular activities for the children to participate in. The company has everything from a spelling bee, to field trips throughout different parts of Ethiopia. This goes a long way to making it interesting for the children, while giving them real life education about the world around them.
Andinet is not exactly a suitable name for the school. Rather it should be called “Andinet in Theory” because while proselytizing unity publicly, in private its really is a different story. While preaching teamwork, nothing could be further from the truth. There is no such thing as healthy debate or fresh ideas, but rather the word of two people which is the only thing the company lives by, though disjointed as it may seem. Once upon a time a recommendation was given to improve discipline. The response was “we will think about it”, and nothing ever happened. This is code for forget about it and don’t bother us with this. The management team does have a sense of communication amongst themselves, even though together they collaborate to contradict policies which they put in place. Once again, this leaves the working staff to wonder, which is the correct policy? The one previously stated, or the current one that is being verbalized.
The facility for grades three through eight are located just behind the Bole Mini, and almost next to Caanan is fairly small. There have been recent additions make the school appear larger then it is. Also it appears to have been once used as a housing compound that has been converted into a school. The recent additions of the classrooms are small, but appear to be in the same architectural style as the rest of the compound. They were deliberately made to be in uniform with the rest of the school. While this appears to be a good idea if they want to make it esthetically pleasing to the eye, yet the classrooms are really quite too small for 25 students. Coming from America Andinet International should have the foresight to understand this, instead of cramming as many students into a classroom at one time. This atmosphere of overcrowding students into a confined area contributes to a feeling of anxiety and hinders classroom activities such as group work, academic games, and role playing. From the outsider looking in, one could say that it’s just Africa, but surely those parents that pay good money to this school, and educators alike would disagree.
Most of the computers could use a memory upgrade or two. Their operating systems should have a good defragmenting program that should be maintained often, but there are much worse in Addis Ababa. It is surprising how a network of about 15 computers or so is able to run off of such limited bandwidth. With the addition of a good fiber-optic cable upgraded, the system could run much more smoothly.
Then again, there is constantly the problem of getting the printer to work properly at times, with other computers simultaneously. For whatever reason there is always a problem printing. Management in its infinite wisdom is always blaming staff for these malfunctions, even though not many people know how to network works, and only very few people have access to the passwords.
Nevertheless, only a small number of teaching staff can access the computers at one time. This is due to password inaccessibility. Currently only four computers can be accessed at any one time by the teaching staff. This causes problems when report cards are due and when planning lessons, which can also be done on the company network. Management still thinks it’s the fault of the staff.
The playground is sorely insufficient. It could be, because there is such a low priority in this area. P.E. is important for students to have a lifelong awareness about how to take care of their bodies, how to develop stronger bodies as well as to develop leadership skills and healthy social skills. Strong mental health is also a byproduct of a good physical education program. After all mental health and physical activity go together, along with concentration of the task presented in front of them. With only an area of approximately 20 by 15 meters is laughable at best, for anything but the most rudimentary physical activity.
Anyone planning to send their children to this school should be very careful with this one. Like any establishment, the heart of the company lies with its employees, not the management. While the employees can function without a management team (although in a diminished capacity). The management cannot survive without its employees. Neither will be able to thrive and succeed without customers or clients!
The physical infrastructure could use larger classrooms and the staff could have better access to the grading software and its computers. This management team (or so called), is in desperate need of professional help. Their hearts in the right place, however since none of the owners have any managerial skills they should hire a manager with prior administrative skills managing a business of greater than fifty people, and have some background in education. However to their credit they have many extra circular activities for children. The workload needs to be more evenly balanced. One or several staff members should not handle more than any other person.
They are the dishonest people, all the while preaching unity, solidarity, and togetherness. What they real intention here is to get ahead by any means necessary. It’s apparent for anyone working there after a few short months, or even a week that they misuse and abuse the work force as much as they can get away with. It really is quite shameful to think that the American part of the management uses dirty tricks and then combines them with new more inventive methods of deceit and corruption learned in her adopted country. So the combined effect is to seek to the lowest common denominator of human culture, again spewing unity, solidarity, and togetherness.
Everyone should do their own homework and thoroughly research where their children are spending their days. Take nothing for granted! Their future and the future of the country, in fact, that of the world depends on it. It would be advisable to visit the school where your children spend their days, by making an unannounced visit. Talk to teachers and other parents concerning how they feel about the educational institution where their children go to during the day. Seek out references from outside sources. Ask to visit the library. Are the books there up to date? Is the staff friendly and courteous? Are the books kept in neat order? What do the bathrooms look like? Is the management upfront when answering your questions, or do they avoid your inquiries by miss directing your attention. Do they appear to have an agenda? Are they dismissive when speaking? Do they seem to be hiding something? Is there an appearance impropriety? Are the desks and chairs in proper working order? Is the physical condition of the building suitable for a proper learning experience? Are the classrooms conducive to a learning environment? Are they open about the school? Ask to see what the computers are like. Are they up to date with the latest software? On the surface these questions could be silly, but seriously how often do we think to really research in depth, the place where we send our most valuable, and treasured resource, our children? All these questions should be asked when considering an educational institution for your children.
As with any investment everyone should take the time to do the proper research when it comes to educating our children. Andinet International School is not the best choice at the moment. In the future it could be, but now it falls short of the high educational institution it aspires to.
John Stevens 2008-2009 school year
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