While sitting in the front row of the festivities of Speech Day at our school, a day to celebrate the year, have students and teachers perform songs and dances, have preschool graduation, and even drink fanta, I found myself repeatedly drawn to not only my students on the stage, but perhaps the children unseen by others: Those Who Stand Outside. Yes, watching with pride my students speak English, put on plays about AIDS and malaria awareness, and sing original composed songs, I also watched with sadness the village children from the community who are not in school who came and stood outside, peering in through the window to watch the life they don’t have.
Though I took many pictures of different events, my camera found its way always back to the faces of Those Who Stand Outside. Am I not here to serve them to? They, in their tattered clothing, standing for hours watching events in a language they barely understand, recognize it all as something special and frankly, they have nothing better to do. With no school of their own, where else should they be? And without an education, they will remain on the Outside looking in. Someone asked me recently, “do you feel like you see the children changed at all or that you are making a difference?” and my original response was “not yet.” But today I realized every day I give my students something Those Who Stand Outside do not have: dignity. Am I making a difference? Yes. One by one, I give them dignity as I take them from the outside and welcome them into my classroom and give them a shot at “Struggling for a better life” to quote a song they sang today. All I can do is continue to work to improve this school and build it financially so we are to sponsor more students like these to come.
Here is a clip of part of the “Struggling For a Better Life” song, I can’t put it all because the internet here is too slow to upload it all. http://youtu.be/RmniAlYWUa8
On a personal and unrelated sidenote, I was VERY Rwandan today. I gave a speech in Kinyarwanda, sang a song in Kinyarwanda, did a Rwandan dance, and wore a traditional Rwandan dress. And laughed at the toilet paper that they use to decorate around here, even though in America it is used to vandalize. Haha.
Of 104 students at our school, about 70 chose to fill the dining hall during my first trial of “open library” instead of recess time. They were buzzing with excitement and energy and NOISE because apparently reading is quite a loud event. “Olivier, look at this one!” “Headmistress, what does this word mean?” “Headmistress this book has monkeys in it!” “The main girl in this book has the same name as my sponsor in the US!” “Can we trade now?” “When can we read again?” These are some of the words I heard whispered, spoken, shouted.
And to think that the one shelf of children’s books we have at our primary school was being locked up in the head teacher’s office for fear that, if put into the hands of children, they would be destroyed! In some ways, it’s true. In the excitement books were dropped, pages turned roughly as if containing a secret treasure that must be quickly found, covers bent in the shuffle of things. But is we don’t put these books in the hands of children, we destroy their PURPOSE, and that it much worse an offense.
Many of the children were truly sitting and reading quietly. Others were more interested in looking at pictures because they don’t have the English vocabulary built up to really read them yet. But for both I was SO excited to see children so eager and excited about reading. I can’t wait to foster this and develop it more next year with having sustained silent reading time each week in English classes, more open library days (for our one shelf of books haha), emphasis on phonics in lower grades, and emphasis on new vocabulary in upper grades including a “word of the day” to be defined and used throughout the day. Take a look at the video!Quieting them down would have been like hushing thunder when you need rain