Friday, April 3, 2009

Kids just want to be loved

After 3 months of hanging out, giving countless detentions and puzzling over how these kids can learn math, I realize that the only lasting impact that I can leave is for them to feel loved.

To recount, I've been teaching 2 math classes a day to the grade 4/5s and grade 6/7s, acted as the school's remedial teacher, and started a "buddie" program between the older kids and younger kids. During the weekdays, we've spent so much time together, during and after school (even when we were sleeping as I could hear all of them breath/sleep talk during the night) that I felt like I was breathing kids. Now that the term is over and they're all back at home for their 2 week break, I can't help but to wonder what their lives at home are like.

On the last day of school, the school principal brought us to the Bopsfontein squatter camp (an informal settlement where people live on someone else's land because they're not being kicked off) where about a quarter of our school kids come from. We saw sights that were similar to Ghana, shacks that were made of of sheet metal and any other scraps instead of mud, uneven dirt roads, stray dogs going wherever they please, garbage strewn around and small stalls selling bags of snacks and food. However, unlike Ghana, people seemed less happy, and in the air hung a feeling of purposelessness. I wondered how such poverty and destitutness could exist in the same country where just a few miles away, white folk could be living in large houses surrounded by manicured lawns. On the other hand, I wondered how I could contine with my luxurious lifestyle (in comparison to these people). The irony is that I can't see myself living any other life.

I asked many of the children what they would be doing during their break, but most answered (like most kids) with a general response that they would just play all the time. One child, Tshidiso answered that he'll probably help his friend cut hair. That was an odd reponse but I soon understood that he, at such a young age of 13, wanted to try to earn a few extra bucks. I knew he came from a home where neither father nor mother cared for him, and whether or not he would see either of them is unknown. Most other kids were given a bit of money to buy snacks and extra food from the school's shop. He never got any.

On the last day of school, Tim and I tried to say good-bye to as many kids as we could by taking pictures and giving hugs. Even the naughty ones who fought and talked to others as much as they could get away with wanted a hug. It makes me feel that they only reason they got in trouble was to get a bit more attention, a bit more love. I'm not certain about what math concept will stick with them after 3 months of learning about place values, number patterns and multiplication, but I hope that whatever love God has given me to give to these children will stick.

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