Day 16 | $3,234 | A Sunday at school in Livingstone

Today is Sunday. With our Spanish friends from Kubuka NGO, we went to visit a school they’re currently working with to sponsor kids to go further in their education. I expected the place to be deserted on this day. But I was wrong.

When we arrived, we heard some songs coming from one of the classrooms, what seemed to be a choral class or something of that kind. A little further, people were going out of another classroom, waiting in line, everyone shaking each other’s hands; they had just finished the church masse.

Those school buildings are used for everything in the community. If people want to meet or gather for any reason, activity, hobby, reunion etc, it’s there that they go.

The kids are also here. It’s unusual to see kids coming to school on the weekend. I asked a little girl, “Why are you at school on a Sunday?” Her answer startled me: “we are coming here to play to be fit! This way we can learn better on Monday”.

What ?! Those kids, at the age of 7, already take care of themselves, understand the value of a healthy mind in a healthy body and come to exercise in order to be more performant at school? I could hardly believe it. I was still suspicious. I told myself, maybe those kids love to come to school during the weekend this way they can play all day and there is no one to bother them with siting down, being quiet and learning, and as soon as Monday comes, they behave just like most of the other kids, they avoid school like a dead putrid animal.

So I asked them if they like going to school, and all of them said with such an enthusiastic tone, that I could hardly doubt the trueness of their words, that OF COURSE they love school (What a fool I am! How can I even ask such a dumb and clueless question! How could kids not obviously deeply love school right?!).

The only thing I could then picture in my mind is how many times did I see a kid crying, yelling and shouting, holding on the school gate with as much strength as his size could allow, begging his mum not to leave him alone, that he would be a nice kid and be quiet if only she agreed to let him return home. And the mum, helpless and ashamed, wouldn’t know what to do anymore to make him understand that school is good for him, that’s his chance for a better and brighter future, and would try to call the teacher for rescue, who would grab his arm and pull him away and you would see in his eyes the fear and the hanger he would have for his mum, the traitor who would have let him go in this awful and infamous prison called school.

I can also picture all those kids, faking to be sick to avoid a day of school (usually the days of sickness coinciding pretty well with the days of exams, interestingly enough). And then you get here, where the classrooms have the minimum needed, no fancy crayons on every table, no brand new blackboard with colourful chalk, no beautiful painting all over the walls, let alone the fans or even aircon so that the rooms wouldn’t get up to 40 degrees during the day, but where the kids come every day, on time, with joy and enthusiasm, waiting to see what awesome new thing they would learn today, excited to see all of their friends and looking forward the playing breaks to make new ones.

Those kids who have nothing but understand the value of knowledge. Those kids who, most of the time, cannot rely on mum and dads savings, so they know from a very young age that if they want to get anywhere in life, it’s their duty to make it happen, on their own, and it starts at grade 1. I could hardly believe it, but here is was, in front of my eyes, the proof that the world isn’t spoiled everywhere.

I was talking to the volley-ball coach, a girl whose only 19 and who struggle to find little jobs waiting to be able to enter university but who still gives volley ball training for free to the community three times a week. She told me that too many kids here drop school for very unfortunate reasons. Girls get pregnant (by accident of course) at a very young age, boys having to find some work to do to help out the family.

I felt helpless. I felt that something was going wrong, that those kids had put so much effort and had so many dreams that were suddenly shattered because of an unfortunate event in their life that they didn’t deserve.

One girl notice the ring that I was wearing, told me if it was from a boy, just for fun, I said yes (it’s actually a family ring), then they pointed at Toto and asked “is it from that one?”, I said “yes”, they started smiling and asked “is he the one?”, I laughed and said “yes”. They started giggling and laughing as if I had told them one of those sacred girls secret.

One of them left us to check him out, and came back, talked to her friends in their local language, they looked puzzled, as if something was going wrong and they couldn’t figure out why. One of them dared to ask “Why doesn’t he have a ring then?”. I found that funny, I didn’t expect that question. I thought that it was the perfect time to have a little girl talk about boys, that hopefully they will remember it long enough not to make too common mistakes.

I told them that first, the boy must show his interest, but the girl shouldn’t show it back and stay cautious. She has to figure out if he is worth her feelings, if he is honest and will care for her. He has to be patient enough and show persistence!

Then only, when the girl is sure that she can believe and trust him, she can show interest back! Which is the reason why he already offered me a ring, but I am still testing him, figuring out if he truly deserves mine ;).

This story left them very thoughtful and I didn’t receive much feedback from them, just some questions in their eyes, doubtfully wondering if that was the way it should be. Then one commented that once, she had a boyfriend, and he broke her heart. They all nodded, I felt that this true life story was what was missing from the lesson, they all started to agree that yes, girls should be careful with boys! I felt relieved!

Then one said “let’s play a game!” and the lesson was over. I’m just hoping that they will remember these words long enough not to be forced to drop school because the unexpected happened.

When we left, they all accompanied us to the main road. One of them was holding my hand and told me “I love your shoes”. Instinctively, I wanted to answer back “I love your shoes too”. Then I looked at her feet. She had no shoes. I felt terrible. I had to answer a little “thank you” feeling that I wish I could have said something else. I wish I could have said that she had nice shoes too. I wish I didn’t feel bad to have shoes at that moment.

Very few of them were actually wearing some, I felt stupid that I hadn’t notice. I started to pay more attention to what they were wearing. One of them was wearing a T-shirt that was sewed right in the middle. It was the right half of a T-shirt, the left half of another T-shirt. I found that funny. Both of them were not exactly the same size so it looked kind of out of balance, but at least she was wearing something.

Another girl was wearing a Billabong Australiapink skirt. Then I thought that those containers of second hand clothes that people send out to Africa do end up somewhere. I pictured the huge pile of clothe that I have at home, some of them that I am not wearing since year already but that are still taking dust at the bottom of my closet. I promise myself to do something about it as soon as I come back.

A little something that makes a huge difference. A cheap impact 

January 27, 2015

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