5 July 2012
Thursday, my happy butt got to spend almost a full school day with my first graders! Madame Fiawoo (aka Mrs. Ruby) left me some time between subjects to let me conduct my second “obroni lesson”! It, uh, did not turn out exactly the way I had originally planned. I was hoping to teach the kids an educational-style game to help them learn their Twi vocabulary. However, this game involved the use of fly swatters, which I had some trouble finding. (Maybe Ghanaians put up with flies better than we do in America, haha) Instead, I decided to teach the kids the folk song, “Down by the Bay.”
I was amazed at how quickly the kids picked up both the melody and the lyrics! They were so eager to learn it that some of them were writing the words down in their notebooks, without being prompted by me or Madame Fiawoo. Each day that I come to help in class, I am more and more inspired by how dedicated the kids are to their lessons. Compared to the classes at the run-down, tiny concrete block schoolhouse my groupmates witnessed at Agbogbloshie, you'd never know the difference between those kids and mine. I'm thrilled that the zeal for knowledge is universal, no matter the living conditions of a child’s home or school. It must be such a fulfilling thing to work with kids their age for a living. Certainly it takes a large degree of patience, but that and a bit of creativity can go a long way.
Throughout the rest of class, there was one girl named Jemima who I noticed was treated differently than the other students. Whenever she came near the others, they made a great effort to stay away from her. I asked Charity why they treat Jemima like the plague, and she explained to me that Jemima has a bad case of ringworm, an extremely contagious skin condition. The school had previously invited Jemima’s parents for a conference, advising them and offering them resources to have her treated, but they have not yet complied. Poor girl, she is stuck with this nasty skin problem and no friends :( When I asked how Jemima felt about her situation, Charity responded that she would sometimes get upset, which has been affecting her school performance.
My heart immediately went out to this girl. I understand how it feels to be quarantined by my classmates for a medical condition that is out of my control. I got to know the horrors of LICE not once, but twice in the 7th grade. Kids are brutal, man. So, I decided to approach her during break time and invite her to come and play a game with us. Even while I attempted to invite her, some of the other kids were warning me to stay away. I reassured them that it would be all right, which, when we all formed a circle outside to play Ama Ama, it was! They treated her just the same as they would treat each other.
Ahh, it's so stinkin' cool to have this opportunity to intervene and have an influence in this situation. While this is often expected of the head teacher, I can understand why Madame Fiawoo is not always able to resolve such issues. She can't force the children to treat each other fairly. As an “Auntie,” or assistant, I seem to have an intermediate role: one that can bear authority toward the children as well as to be their friend and join them in games. If I can leave the kids with one thing before I go home, I hope that it will be the understanding that Jemima is their friend and is not defined by her condition.
I wish I had more time to spend with them! There's only so much I can do to make an impact in a few weeks... Maybe I'm too idealistic, who knows. It's worth a shot :)