Thursday, December 2, 2010

school's out for the "winter"

In Uganda, school goes from February through November. Since it’s summer all of the time here, there’s no need to have Christmas and summer breaks separate. While they do have a shorter break between school years, they have lots of public holidays. For example, the government institutions and most schools close for Muslim Holidays as well as Christian.
Last week was the last week of actual class. I think I had really good timing for teaching, because I felt comfortable leading the English lessons without worrying about whether or not I would be responsible for them passing or failing their exams which determine whether or not they move on to the next grade. They had already takes their exams by then, so it was kind of like everything I taught them was just extra.
Still, the kids seemed pretty engaged and happy to be at school learning English. I think they wanted to impress me with what they knew, too. And I am impressed at how much they already know, considering that English is their second language.
Our school met for an extra week to practice for the end-of-they rear concert. We got costumes together, mostly borrowed from a school Annie used to teach at. It’s pretty hectic but I’m sure whatever they end up pulling off will make their parents very amused and proud.
The one in the middle’s (English) name is Grace. She is one of the ten children of Joshua and Mama Mercy’s. She’s been coming to school every day for two weeks in the same green christmas dress. Annie said some days she doesn’t even have underwear to wear under it.
Along with her new uniform, today I gave her a few second-hand outfits and 10 pairs of new panties. It kills me to see these sweet kids go without such basic needs like food and clothing, and it’s hard even helping one when I know I can’t help all of them equally and I know I can’t provide anything for them permanently. I hope that my small gestures at least let them know that someone cares about them and that there are lots of people who are willing to help in whatever ways they can.
Rummaging through used underwear and children’s clothing to provide for her what her own family can’t was the first time I got emotional since I’ve been here. I think the chaos of the market forced it out a little too, but I’m glad that in the end I held it together and didn’t draw any more attention to myself than I already was, being the only light-skinned person in the whole place and everyone already grabbing, yelling, staring at me.
Anyway, Grace (I’m having a really hard time remembering her Luganda name) was super grateful for so little and it was so happy and heartbreaking at the same time. The kids here bow down on their knees to thank you and some do it multiple times. When they had their first meal from the food I bought them they each individually came up, knelt and said “Sank You Teacha Yusi for buying food” in their adorable Ugandan English.
It’s those kind of moments that make me realize this work is as much for me as it is for them. It almost feels selfish sometimes how gratified I am for what someone in the US would consider such as small donation.
….. Speaking of donations! ; )



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