( I want to put a disclaimer before you read the rest of this post, contrary to popular belief not all Africans live in abject poverty and ignorance. It gets really frustrating when I meet people in N.America who are shocked that I don’t live in a mud hut and my house has running water and electricity. I have lost count how many times this has happened to me! For heavens sake!!! North Americans have no excuse for such ignorance, you have so much information readily available to you ( most Africans don’t have this luxury), is it not possible to research a little? Instead of eating up what the media throws at you?
I often wonder if I will ever stop being amazed at the humble school bus. You know, the yellow bus that picks up children all over North America to take them to school. Sometimes I stand and stare at it wondering if the kids inside know just how privileged they are for that simple bus. I know many kids back home who at age 6 walk several kilometers to school. I did that for a brief time in my childhood. Education is so very important that whether a household has parents or it is run by children, many will do whatever it takes to get to school. There is a sense of pride when you finish school albeit going to University is close to impossible. Most children know, life is better off with an education than without one. I know of mothers who go without good clothes and sometimes eating well just so they can scrape up money to send their children to school. I have had lots of children crying because they desperately want an education. As for walking an hour or two to school, well that’s just the normal part of life, nothing to moan over.
When I was working in Maputo, I often spent several hours a day a couple times a week walking through the community visiting the children under our care. One day I went to visit Samuel*. I had known him from the time he was 6 months, terribly malnourished with a mother sick with HIV. My mother made his mom come to our house every day for a couple months so that he could be fed back to life. He was literally skin and bones (yeap like those pictures the media loves to flaunt about when it talks about my continent) Like hundreds of children that my parents have helped over the years, little Samuel began calling my parents mama and papa, he became a part of the church family. We continued to watch over him after his mother died and his grandmother started looking after him and his older sister. When he turned 6 his grandmother decided to leave her two grandchildren and live some place else. And so Samuel s 13 year old sister became his parent. A sad reality that happens too often. We as a family could not intervene and take them home … such situations are too common in some communities.
On that particular day when I came to visit, Samuel was alone. I asked him where his sister was, turns out she was often not home. I stood there holding back tears, what was I to do, I had no legal right to take him home. Standing there looking at him I realized sitting with Samuel and crying over how hard his life was would not help the situation, and so I sat on the floor with this 6 year old and we discussed how much firewood he needed to start a fire in the morning and if he had enough rice to cook so that he was not hungry when he went to school. We discussed if his school uniform was clean and encouraged him to keep waking up at 6 so that he could walk to school and not be late. My heart hurt as I treated little Samuel as if he was a responsible teen. After that, I went to the neigbhours and asked them if they could continue keeping a watchful eye on him.
I know there are a host of external and internal issues that leave so many children on a reserve with a sense of hopelessness, sometimes I can’t help but wonder, is it not a privilege that a child here can wake up one morning and decide: ” I am tired of school, its too boring, I won’t go anymore!” and never sit in that yellow bus again?
*Samuel is not his real name.
Do you pray? please pray I get a new camera. Spring is making a valiant effort to make an appearance, it would be real sad if I can’t capture anything on camera. I can live without a camera but it sure makes my life sweeter!