Big Point of View

The first wildlife I saw at Kichwa Tembo was these elephants:

Elephants.
Elephants.

I got really excited going through my pictures that evening to find that these same elephants were in the top photo, one that I took as the plane was descending.  These photos are a few years old, but I thought the difference in point of view was interesting. I seem to have Africa on the brain lately, this is my third post in a week from that trip.

Young Teachers

Hello to you mum, thank you for your uptades.At Nairobi all is well still pulling up my socks in all matters concerning my life. Thank you mum for your concern, i really know that my success is your success too. plz tell my brother that i have got and appreciated his regards.

James with "his kids".
James with “his kids”.

My son is a teacher. That is not the course on which he started out, his degree is in marketing. His first gig was to volunteer at an embryo of a high school in a village not far from Kitui in Kenya. He was there for three months and taught business, English, physics and he invented a PE class to help the kids get their blood flowing between all that book work. At 22, with no experience, he was the only teacher who had a university degree.

The note above is from a young man who was a student at that school. Life in Africa has many challenges and Alex’s story illustrates a few of them. James was not Alex’s teacher, but they were friends. He noticed that Alex was not in school for a while and discovered that he was ill with Malaria. It did not just affect his attendance, and performance in school. Since Alex was working to pay his way through school he was subsequently sent home because he could not pay his tuition. James scabbed together a scholarship from his own funds and asked me to sponsor Alex’s last year in high school. This allowed him to finish school. Although he is a bright young man who worked hard, his marks were not high enough for college. But he now has a job. He sends money home to his mother and helps pay his younger brother’s way through school.

I am proud of both my sons: James for taking the initiative to help his friend, following the path of untold numbers of teachers around the world going above and beyond the classroom; and Alex for “pulling up his socks” in the face of a very challenging set of circumstances.

Digression about Malaria: Maybe I am exceptionally ignorant, but I didn’t realize until then about the high cost of malaria for people who have it and do not die. They are sick, often very sick, on and off for the rest of their lives. How many kids drop out of school from lost time and never get the somewhat better jobs available to those with an education? How many people who have the illness wind up losing pay for missed time or even their jobs? The lower standard of living means less nutrition which makes people less able to fight and recover from the bouts of malaria and other illnesses, These are not statistics I have seen and may not be even possible to measure, but they are real effects of the disease.

There are other teachers from that school I want to talk about. The school was chaotic and disorganized and had a corrupt headmaster provided by the government. These young teachers were often not paid on time and sometimes not at all. The headmaster did not provide the text books paid for by the government so these teachers often had to be creative to teach the students. They worked hard, provided as stable setting for the students as they could and held things together. None of them was over 25.

Mr. Elijah teaching.
Mr. Elijah teaching.

At the time James was there the school was in large measure held together by a young deputy headmaster, Mr. Elijah. Mr. Elijah had only a high school education at the time he was holding things together. He was about 20 years old and he dealt with everything from buying food to counseling pregnant teens. His enthusiasm and joy are infectious and probably why many of the students stayed in school. It is he in my Reward post.

Moses Kyando and James.
Moses Kyando and James.

Mr. Moses Kyando was a primary school teacher who came (he actually commuted by long distance running) from a village about 5 miles away.  He could have worked for more money, and more reliable money at that at a location nearer his home but he came because he loved the students. He became deputy headmaster when Mr. Elijah went off to college.

Mrs. Munyoki
Mrs. Munyoki

Another dedicated teacher who held things together was Mrs. Munyoki. She did not have as flamboyant a personality as the two young men but she was always there. It was harder to get to know her as she had a young child and was not able to socialize with us after school hours.

The villagers eventually got together and ousted the corrupt headmaster and a new, very competent headmistress was brought in.  Now the school has textbooks, floors in all the classrooms, a lab and, soon, a library.  Things have really come together, but the school would not have lasted long enough to flourish without the dedication of those three young teachers.

Mr. Elijah graduated from Kenyatta University in December and Mr. Kyando is a student there now.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “We Can Be Taught!.”

 

No Confidence

I am not confident. The funny thing is that I no longer value confidence.

When shopping downtown this past Christmas, I walked into a clothing store and saw a sign that advertised to the sexy and confident, thought “I am neither” then walked out. It was not a melancholy I-wish-I-were sort of feeling, just a matter of fact, this is not for me.

The lack of appeal of the word sexy didn’t surprise me, but the total lack of appeal of confidence did. After all don’t we all try to hone our skills and become knowledgeable so we do not have to dither? Doesn’t confidence help give us the courage to act?

I do not feel worthless or lacking in skill or knowledge. It is just that I have seen so many confident seeming situations derailed, often by folks who are just plain wrong insisting they are right. If ignorance is their only source of bliss I suppose it is okay…so long as it does not impact me.  I do not strive to be one of them.

My problem is how to respond in those situations where I am impacted. How do you let folks take the natural consequences for their own actions?

In parenting “natural consequences” were all the rage when my child was young. Problem was that the natural consequences for things like running into the street can be pretty dire, and not just for the kid. Most situations are not that dramatically clear, but where do you draw the line?

How do you respond to the request for assistance when the person is in a mess of their own making, but it impacts everyone around them? What do I do to protect myself? With all these questions how could I feel confident?

Today, I think, I am seeking wisdom, understanding and discernment, where in my youth I admired and sought confidence.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I Have Confidence in Me.”

Reward

I had jet lag. We arrived in Nairobi at 10:00 pm and had prearranged to meet the “boys” (actually men, I call them boys because they are about the same age as my son) at a bookstore in the Sarit Centre at 10:00 the next morning. Nairobi is an eleven hour time difference from Seattle and it takes about 24 hours to get there.

They call traffic in Nairobi “the jam”.  It took over an hour for our taxi to get to Sarit Centre from Gigiri but the boys bus ride was closer to 3 hours.  If I had realized how challenging the shopping trip would be I would not even have tried.

We had raised and brought with us $500 for them to use to purchase library books they thought would benefit high school students and young adults. Never has $500 been so carefully spent. They spent hours carefully picking, conferring and doing sums. I sat on a stool with my head on my knees, not comfortable enough to doze. I thought we were done, when the owner of the bookstore gave us a 10% discount so they could buy more books!

After shopping we had lunch in the food court and parted company. I was toast, but the reward:

African man smiling
African man smiling

Of course I would do it again…Just maybe on the second or third day.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Reward.”

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