Night of March 8, 2012
Excitement maybe, anticipation…. yes! Tomorrow is my first day of school! “Ide ku pita ku Madisi Primary School.” I am happy to walk the path my students walk, sit the floors they sit, and experience how they learn. Everyday. Friday, March 9th, 2012 will my my first day back to grade 6. lol. I will be joining Fatima and Falida. They are Risemalawi students and also my neighbors. I am thankful, ndatakoza for this opportunity. I believe this will give me a better understanding of the challenges each child in Africa must endure for their chance at education (survival). Although, I am excited, I am praying we have sun in the am, so we do not have to walk in the rain and mud. I am not looking forward to staring the journey at 645am, in order to to get to school by 730.
Will my uniform be alright by the standards of the teachers? What about the students who come from deeper into the village.. no food in their bellies… I desire to hold onto that feeling of hunger, just to have a glimpse of the shoes these precious kids fill.
March 9, 2012
Goodmorning… well I knew it would be, yet, 5:48 am did not scream good to me. When I saw that time, I thought, “Yes, ten more minutes!” Yes, I woke up at 6am.
Promptly, at 6:35 there was an “Odi” at the door. It was Falida, Fatima and Jessi the three girls I’d be walking to school with. They were as excited as a child on Christmas morning! I was still waking up. Feeling the pressure, I ate a few bites of milk-less cornflakes and a bite of Malawian Sweet Potatoes, brushed my teeth, and was out the door(Oh of course I got the “first day of school photo!).
The ground still muddy, with puddles from last nights rain, however, as I prayed, there was no rain for the 20 minute walk to school. Fatima and Falida, twins, grade 6 and their cousin Jessi, grade 2 lead the way avoiding puddles, minibuses, cars, and bicylce taxies. Seriously, a huge responsibility for so many children, walking, hoping just to arrive safely to school.
At the school building the kids began the day by singing songs, doing some stretches and singing what might have been a National Anthem. Lined up by grades 1-8, full of awe and shock to see me at school with them I was still welcomed. Students were dressed in a range of bright hues of pinks and greens, to dull and tattered uniforms. Some students wore shoes, others barefeet. Children were still arriving at 7:50am, sweating and tired. It was hard to watch as youth were barefoot, with one shoe and a few whom do not even own a uniform.
Too poor for a uniform & too poor to be ontime. What made them late? Was their commute an hour? Did they stop to find food? And this was all before a 6 hour day of school…
Eunice, the teacher of grade 6a was happy to have me in her class. Fatima was in this class, Falida in 6b. Fatima claimed her spot in the front row… I was a little intimidated, yet I went for the seat next to hers on the floor. No desks here, not even electricity. Just a brick building, windows for light and chalk for the teacher. The lessons were simple, the youth eager to be called on. Once called on the youth rises to his or her feet and recites the answer. There was a range of students in the class, much like any 6th grade classroom, however many of the RiseMalawi students were leaders. Many sat in the front row, answered questions correctly, and were the majority of who participated. This was a neat observation, for sure!
At 9:15am, I joined Falida in the grade 6b class and was way more impressed with her teachers. In 6a the teacher teaching English, was completely incorrect in her teaching. Of course that made me upset, because one of the girls I tutor is in that class, and it is no wonder she struggles. The lessons she learns in English in school is completely contradictory to my lessons. I know teachers make mistakes, yet now I know why Mureen is struggling. Back to 6a, again I pleaded with the teachers to let me sit on the red, dusty floor as they offered me a single bench. I politely refused. I replied with, “I really want to experience school as a child in Malawi…” They looked at me like I was slightly crazy, but let me be. They were engaging, fun and inclusive. I was “just here to observe” however when the class was learning about various topics, I was also treated as a pupil. Learning about Malawi and its physical features in Science, the question I answered was: name major lakes and rivers in Malawi? I raised my hand, stood proudly, dusted off my skirt and said “Lake Malawi!” The kids cheered me on, smiled and giggled!
With much thanksgiving in my heart, I have so much more to share about this day. As my day ended, and I was nearly home, Elijah, a friend Iv made asked me, “Is it true you were in 6th grade today at Madisi Primary School?” I said “Yes! But who told you?” Elijah replied, “My son, he is in grade 1. He said he saw you there…” Even with this little first grader in Malawi — he is observant and wise. I am thankful to all the teachers, the community, the kids who helped me in math class today… and to God! This special day is a day to remember. It is not everyday we get the opportunity to learn life lessons in such a humbling way. Zikomo Kwambiri.