On Saturday morning we held the second meeting of our educational outreach program at a school a few miles from the mission. Last Saturday had just been introductions—of people and of the program we would be running. In a typically African long-winded fashion, we took the whole three hours to do this, then at the end every kid received a two sandwiches and a cup of juice. This is honestly probably why a majority of the kids participate, and it is also probably one of the best things we can do for these kids. The program is only for grades 5, 6, and 7 (we just don’t have the staff numbers to do additional grades). Last week only three kids outside these grades showed up, but this Saturday about 10 of them did. We let them participate for the day, but then explained they couldn’t come back again. This is the hardest thing—turning away kids who have gone out of their way to learn. The Americanism of the mission means that we are requiring all participating children turn in a guardian permission slip. This is a difficult concept to get across, both to the kids and to the staff who are supposed to be mandating it. Some kids want to fill it out themselves because they assure us that their guardians said it was okay. Some kids participated last year and turned in a form then. In both cases, everyone (staff included) thinks I am crazy for being so strict about the permission slips.
I work with the 7th graders and enjoyed it immensely. They are a very outgoing group and I was pleasantly surprised by the level of their English. As is pretty typical for Africa, some of the kids have failed grades in the past or perhaps of missed a year of school at some point, so the average age is probably around 14. At the end, one of the older boys (17) asked me if I know his sister—I do, she is one of my best high school students in the evenings. Interestingly, at the “aunties meeting” today one of the aunties mentioned that they had recently discovered she had an older brother (with people here having multiple wives and partners, all half-siblings are considering siblings, so families can be large and people don’t always know all their siblings), so they were thrilled to hear I had met him.
I am getting to the point in working with kids that I love most—I have started to win over the kids who initially hated me/being there/learning. It’s my favorite part because they never see it coming, and I always do. This is only in the mandatory afternoon activities and evening studies for the hostel kids. I didn’t have to work as hard to win over my eleven wonderful bridge school students.