Today was a wonderful day. I am teaching math and English in “bridge school,” which is aimed at accelerating slightly older kids through grades 6 and 7 so they can begin high school the following year. I don’t understand yet exactly how kids end up in this program, but I was surprised and impressed by how good my students are. I have only 11 of them and they all have reasonable baseline knowledge, show up on time, and do what I tell them. After teaching classes of 50 kids, half of whom didn’t want to be there, in Mozambique, this is unbelievably enjoyable. In the afternoons we have an educational enhancement program for the primary school kids. The purpose is to improve their English and math skills, but in a distinctly non-classroom setting. So basically I get to combine two of my favorite things—a summer camp atmosphere with learning! Today we discussed the alphabet and played a game where the kids have to arrange the letters in the correct answer. The kids got really into it and seemed to enjoy the activity, though I wish I could do it in smaller groups.
Afterwards I was loitering near the playground speaking to kids when one of my students from bridge school came over and launched into a monologue in English about how much he loves bologna and how much energy he has. This was really incredible because most primary school kids here avoid speaking English at all costs. I can tell so many of them want to speak to me so badly, but don’t simply because they feel they don’t have the English to do so.
There is a brand new baby here who is only 2 years old and sick. Aside from being noticeably hungry when she first arrived, she is heartbreaking in her interactions with other people. She rarely ever makes eye contact and, though it’s apparent she recognizes face, she doesn’t fixate on them. It’s very clear that she learned a long time ago that human interactions would not benefit her in any way, so she stopped having them. It literally feels like someone has stomped on my chest when I look at her and realize that she’s never felt loved before.
She was brought up at a meeting today, people were discussing her lack of eye contact and interaction with others. I was relieved because I often feel that Mozambicans and Swazis think I am overreacting to things like this. I was glad to see other people concerned too.