It didn’t seem real to me at first, I got in an insane routine for two months, of unpacking for a night or two and moving on. Suddenly there was no moving on anymore, there were no next destinations, no more buses, struggle and hassle. We were there.
I had been mentioning this place for so long, trying to build an image in my mind out of Torsten’s description and the pictures that I had seen. It was hard to believe that we made it. I could see it with my own eyes, feel it with my own heart.
Kids started to run toward us, grabbing our hands and offering us to carry our bags that were probably twice their size. Then she appeared, smiling and waving at us, Mama Dolphin, in her long colourful dress made out of those beautiful local cloth. She is the one who made this project a reality: offering free education to the ones who can’t afford public school, and give them a chance for a brighter future.
The Korando Educational Center is a non-formal school, which means that the children do not have the same (expensive) requirements than a public school: no school fees to pay, no uniforms to buy, no obligatory books and bags, no activity fees… The focus is made only on education. The Center provides its own school uniforms to the kids for free, every time the finances are doing well and there is a little bit of spare money. But if the children come in other uniforms, borrowed from older cousins or relatives for instance, it doesn’t matter, and they would still be allowed to attend classes, which wouldn’t be the case in public school. The Center provides the books and follows the governmental syllabus, and the activities are free! Everything is made to offer the best learning conditions possible with the means available.
The children that attend the Korando School have a difficult background. Most of them are total orphans, which mean that both their parents are gone, and they either live with relatives, or at the Center. Often, the relatives do not want to spend money on them, sending them to public school with all the fees that are involved is not even an option. And in some cases, they see those children as a way to make extra income, sending the girls to work as a maid, and the boys to work in the field. Mama Dolphin gives them education, from nursery to university! Some children are only partially orphans, which mean that either their mum or their dad is missing. In those cases, and often with many brothers and sisters, the remaining parents cannot afford to send them to school: Korando becomes their only chance. And finally, the “luckier” ones, who are only described as vulnerable; they have both their parents, unfortunately too poor to send them to public school. Again, Korando Center comes to help.
I was looking at some kids, wondering what is their story, what does life looks like when they go back home. One Afternoon I saw some little alone in a classroom, whereas all the other ones had class. When I asked them if the teacher was missing, their answer left me speechless. The pupils of grade one have class in the mornings only, so why would they come to school in the afternoon nevertheless? Because when they go home, they are asked to go and fetch water or fetch wood, and do not have time or any favourable conditions to do their homework. So by staying at school, they can do their assignment, their morning teacher comes from time to time to see if they have any issues, and when they are done, they can feel free to go back home (even though they rather stay and play with their friends!). Such commitment and willingness to learn, even from the younger ones, reminds me how careless our children could be, postponing their homework always later, running away from school as soon as the bell rings… School for us is taken for granted, for them it’s a chance, an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed and should be used to its fullest! That’s also why I’d really like to create partnerships with developed world schools; I wish our kids could realize how lucky they are…