Cheating and Wasta! This was the day they brought me cake and cupcakes and Twix bars for my birthday!
“Ahmed, where are you going?” I asked.
“To sit with Jamal.”
“No, we are taking a test,” I explained.
He looked at me blankly.
“For a test, you need to sit on your own.”
Khalid, quite frustrated declared, “A test, teacher? What is this? Test. You have not told us of this test.”
“I don’t mean a test; just a quiz. To see how you learned your vocabulary.”
“So it is not a test?”
“No, just a quiz. But you need to sit on your own to take it.” We spent the next few minutes moving desks and situating the class.
While handing out the test quiz, I notified them, “Try your best. I just want to see what you have learned.”
Three minutes into the quiz, I witnessed a peculiar thing. Mohammed started talking to Ahmed, Jamal to Faisal, Hazza to Khalid. I addressed them all, “You need to stop talking. You are taking a test.”
“Teacher, you can not give test without telling us,” Khalid was still upset about the whole “test” thing.
“Quiz. You may not talk while you are taking a quiz.”
Mohammed spoke for them all, nonchalantly waving his hand, “Wasta, teacher. Wasta.”
“It’s ok, teacher. Wasta,” Mohammed continued to look over at Ahmed’s paper as he spoke with me.
“I don’t understand. What is wasta?”
“Ahmed knows answer. He give to me. Wasta,” Mohammed jotted an answer now on his paper.
“No. That’s cheating. You may not cheat on a quiz. I want to know what you know, not what your neighbor knows.” I explained to a room full of blank stares.
“No cheating, teacher,” Mohammed replied quite adamantly. Cheating is a dirty word. “We no cheat. Wasta.”
And so the Arabic teacher explained to me after class. Wasta is the understanding that if their neighbor knows something, they tell them so they know and vice versa when they know something, they tell their neighbor. It’s not important to know everything. Someone else will know it for them. Not cheating. Wasta!