One of my favorite things on a growing list of the eye screenings, is seeing the kids names. Confidence, Promise, Prayer and Bright for the boys and Bless, Delight, Gift for the girls and twin girls named Wonder and Hope. I love the hope that is placed on their children at birth, especially in a country where the infant mortality rate is 35 in every 1,000. Babies aren’t named until a long enough time that they are sure they will survive.
We started working in another school on Friday, about 10 minutes down the road for our first placement. It’s a larger school and has a nice set up with a large treed area in the middle. We arrived Friday to see the junior high kids moving their desks out to that middle section to take their exams. It looked very inviting, also pretty easy to cheat, but I’m guessing the “rod” isn’t spared on the junior high students either. The kids uniforms are even more tattered than the last school with buttons missing, sleeves barely hanging on to the bodice, zippers missing and gaping side seams on dresses. I’m very distressed about this as it seems to be such an unnecessary loss of dignity for these kids to have to endure. I asked Makafui if it would be possible for me to buy new uniforms for the kids (it’s the younger ones that are the worst), but he regretfully said no as it’s not keeping with their sustainability policy. So, I asked if it would be possible for us to bring in needles, thread, patches of fabric and make repairs. He loved the idea and will check with the headmaster. Of course the kids would have to wear something different to school for us to be able to do the repairs.
We were working with the “older” kids Friday (3rd and 4th graders) and I’m so surprised by the range of ages in the grades. I tested one 4th grader who was 16. I also had a few 13 and 14 year olds in that same class. Their age is only a factor of when they were initially sent to school and how many times they’ve been held back. Many of the parents in the areas where we are testing are illiterate and it’s doubtful that they put any kind of a priority on education and because many are farmers, they need the help from their kids. The majority of these kids will likely dropout before high school. You can definitely spot the kids whose parents see education as more of a priority. They are cleaner, have uniforms that are better taken care of and have good English skills, even in the lower grades, such as Kindergarten and first. The headmaster started school a few years late and didn’t end up graduating from high school until he was 23, so older kids in younger grades isn’t a big deal here.
Today while I was waiting for the others to finish up, a crowd of the kids started gathering around (at least 30) so I started asking them simple questions such as favorite colors and how old they were. One of the girls noticed that I had a writing pen hooked onto the edge of my pocked and she wanted to know “why I do that?” I told her, “because it works…”. Then, I’m not sure what came over me, heat, being tired from a bad night’s sleep or simply the fact that they’re kids and kids are fun, but I said “because it works” again, only this time in a sing song manner as I danced to the words. And then it happened. Those 30 some kids broke into song and dance, repeating exactly what I had done. To test my theory, I waved normally, then made a tiny wave with only my index finger. Again, they mimicked my actions to a tee. They are the masters of simon says! It’s possible I’ve started something that I’m likely going to have a lot of fun with in our free time when I’m with them.
One of the girls had an infected open wound on her leg that was dirty and attracting flies. Our driver was kind enough to get some gauze and wrap the wound, which will keep the dirt out, but I think it’s going to take a lot more than that. I’m sure at this point she should be on antibiotics. I’ve actually seen several kids with open and infected wounds, but hers was the worst. Medical care, I’m sure, is hard to come by given the remoteness of their villages. I felt so bad for her as I know it was hurting her because she was limping.
All of the kids in public school are required to shave their heads for health concerns (lice), so it’s rare to see a child under 16 without a shaved head. I’ve got to think it’s a lot cooler as well and certainly easier to take care of.
Many of these kids have never put on glasses before and don’t even know how to put them on their face, which is so surprising to me, but then again,since I’ve been here, I’ve not seen any natives in sun glasses. I think that’s probably one of the reasons the child waiting for the test is so tickeled by seeing their classmate in the test glasses (one pair with the right lens out and the other with the left lens out to test each eye separately).
It was a good day. They keep getting better. And their goodbyes… oh those goodbyes… they touch me every time. Today they ran behind the van, continuing their waving, until almost to the edge of the property!