Saturday, February 7, 2009

Children: the battle between flesh and spirit

I feel definitely challenged in my teaching profession. After each day’s end, I’m not sure whether to celebrate the survival of another day or the small success of another child’s heightened understanding of mathematics, or rack my brains for what I’ve forgotten about best practice that I learned in university. I’ve been teaching two split 4/5 and 6/7 math classes, but it actually feels like I’m teaching three. The 4/5 class consists of students who can actually keep up with the BC grade 3 curriculum, and half who are new students into the school, who are either new to English, or went to a school that didn’t teach them anything (and I’m not exaggerating here…I heard that a public school in our area didn’t have enough teachers last year, so students simply sat and learned nothing). The 6/7 class is thankfully a bit more homogenous, so I can actually teach the same lesson and have most understand.

The issue goes a bit deeper than the classroom, as I’m slowly learning. Many of the children come from a culture and families where the parents (most of whom are single parents) don’t value or care for their child. In the African cultures we’ve encountered so far (including in Ghana), once a couple gets married, it’s expected that the women will have a baby right away. It’s the norm, and it’s every woman’s desire –to have the ability to conceive. One of the first questions I got asked once any black woman found out I was married, was whether I had a child. When I answered no, and moreover, to their alarm, that I didn’t want a child yet, they couldn’t understand why. This belief has resulted in problems of premarital sex, and babies born out of wedlock, just so the women can prove to the man that she is able to conceive, and therefore has met the qualifications of a good woman.

After the child is born, he/she may be treated like a commodity that would allow the parents to receive a monthly payment from the government. The families are poor, so he/she may get two meals a day if lucky, and left unsupervised most of the time, actually, he/she would either be supervising a younger sibling, or playing on the streets with other unsupervised children. What about love? “What does that feel like?” a child may wonder.

A scarier discovery, that children are taught by their fathers that love is sex. Sexual abuse is not uncommon in black families of the townships and squatter camps. It stems from the belief that one of the father’s roles is to teach their child, or their child’s friend what and how to have sex.

According to 2006 statistics, 30% of South Africa’s population has AIDS. A grade 5 child in my class has AIDS. She has to take pills twice a day, at exactly the same times, or her condition worsens until she is no more. I’m really not supposed to talk about it, as any terminal diseases are not spoken about in schools here. In fact, the governing board of education discourages that kind of talk.

Because of the poor condition of life for black folk, the Aurora primary school is a little piece of heaven for the children. All the teachers are here on a voluntary basis, as any funds collected from school fees or donations go directly to benefit the children. Meals are provided three times a day, quality education from teachers who care, and a warm bed to sleep in during the week.

However, there is never enough love to go around. I’ve started working with the most needy kids in the school, those who have failed a grade, those who don’t have much English, those who are struggling academically, and (I think) those who have learning disabilities. I’ve only seen some of them once or twice, but every time they spy me walking in their vicinity, eager eyes and open arms are usually result in hugs that leave them smiling.

Sometimes at the end of the day, I wonder whether anything I’ve done has made any difference at all. Sometimes, I feel even being there to give a hug, and seeing their face brighten, has made it all worthwhile. I hang onto the thought that somehow, the love shown through my actions, and the words of encouragement may bring them one step closer to experiencing God.

More recent and urgent news:

Just this past week, the intermediate students (grade 4 -7) were caught playing a deadly game of strangling each other called “dreaming.” This involved about 20 students who thought it would be a challenge to strangle each other and see who could tolerate it the longest as a show of strength. The police were immediately called in to deal with the situation and to show the children the seriousness of their crime. We learned from the police that what this act is classified as an entry level initiative into Satanic worship, and is against the law in South Africa.

The principal had warned us of spiritual attacks occurring on the school during our orientation, but I didn’t expect it to be this vigorous. The school is the only place where these children will ever hear about the word of God, and Satan is unhappy with what is happening.

Please pray especially for the safety and salvation of the children of Aurora primary school, for the teachers to have the wisdom and patience to touch the hearts of these children so that they can be won over for God’s kingdom.


Grand.Elaine said...

Dora, you are one of the most compassionate, patient and understanding people I know! You are doing so much and understanding and learning about these children only blesses them even more! Your heart is so important in this is teaching..and you're seen as so much more than just a teacher! I'm so proud of you for opening your heart! We are praying for you and these children :O) Smile and open your arms...they love you for it!

Linda said...

I echo what Grand & Elaine wrote. You are loving these kids as how God loves you. You have been another source of love that many of them have never experienced. This is evident with their desire to hug you. (I only get little Ks hugging me over here!).

Thank you & Tim for serving with so much love & faith in Africa :)

I am praying!