The staff of my school was invited to the 70’s anniversary of one of the local primary schools. A week before the event, my principal asked if I would like to attend. Of course my response was a resounding “Absolutely!” Now, I said this not because I wanted to get out of my village (I’ve only been here for a week, not even close to long enough to get cabin fever), but because I want to get as much cultural emersion as possible.
So, two days before the event, my principal informed the staff that she was going to be gone all weekend to attend a wedding of a family member. Huh. Luckily the teacher who I live with was also interested in going. Saturday morning arrived and we crammed into the school baki (truck) and made our way the 25 km to the primary school.
The event, which started at 9am, began around 11:30. There were representatives from most of the local schools, as well as past learners from the school itself. We were treated to many forms of entertainment, ranging from local youth performing oviritje (Herero music) accompanied by music, learners dancing different traditional dances, as well as dancing from the random Herero women who just got the urge while the music was playing.
The focus of the event was not only on the achievement of teaching youth for 70 years, but it was also a fundraiser to build a hostel (dorm) for the learners. While this school is not quite as far away from civilization as mine, it still is quite far (over 60 km from the nearest town). This prevents many learners from being able to make the commute. To help their numbers grow, the faculty decided to turn two of their classrooms into unofficial hostels. The problem with this is that not only do the children need to cram together, but the bathrooms are very far away. At night they must use a bucket because it is dangerous to be out after dark (snakes and scorpions, and, they range from 6 to 13).
I was very impressed to see how the school decided to host a fundraising event to raise the money for their hostel. All too often organizations become reliant of foreign aide to solve all their problems. These organizations have legitimate concerns, such as needing a hostel, or fixing the roof, or providing sports equipment/fields for the kids. But instead of trying to get the money in country, they put their hand out and wait for the money to come in. Fortunately I have not seen any of that here. This school worked very hard to get donations, from other schools, the ministry, various organizations, and the local community. They planned the event, had a VIP dinner (which I was invited to. Delicious food!), a raffle for a sheep (which I should have bought a ticket for), and they sold t-shirts (which I did buy!).
It is effort like this which makes me think that I will be able to make a difference. I am not just in this country to teach English. I am here to be a catalyst for change. These schools need and want help. They just don’t know how to get it. If I can be there, listening to their needs and concerns, I can plant the seed for them to be able to solve their own problems. They need to be reliant on themselves so that they can pull themselves out of the hole they are in. Doing this will also allow them to have pride and feel successful. My goal is that when I leave, I will have no credit for any of those seeds I planted. I want them to say, “Wow, I am so glad Mr. Muhau started that boy’s club” or “Ms. Murangi sure worked hard to make the computer lab run smoothly”.