Thursday, 30 July 2009

Dezra ii - change...

Change, I have come to realise, is an entity not bound by time - despite what I naively believed before I came here, by money (again I’m very easily convinced) or by power. I believe change is governed only by the mind. If you will it, if you allow it to happen, or accept it, a difference can be made, even in one conversation.

The question is, from where, after a week of exhausting every raw emotion possible, has this new outlook arisen? The answer was even a surprise to me, pouncing on me from somewhere I least expected- Jana School, where I have found a new surge of respect. Within the space of 20 minutes, including two short prayers customary at the beginning and end of any meeting, the teachers had already come up with many ways of enforcing discipline without force or brutality. Listening to them speak- bearing in mind about how in Ghana caning is the cultural norm- it was hard not to feel proud of how quickly their attitude changed, even if it meant going against the grain. This certainly reflects Maltiti as an institution and the principles by which its stands, a charity that I believe is at the forefront of a significant shift in education. Setting a standard for others in the area, no child is overlooked. With each child given a chance to thrive I can now honestly say I feel extremely privileged to be a part of this ‘family’ they speak of.

As the sun was setting, a shard of light pierced through the corner of a window, shattering into thousands as it hit the metal gratings, bathing a group of children in a warm red and orange glow. It was at this point that I truly believed my new feeling, merely a week old were firmly anchored down, with no chance of escaping. Singing, dancing and drumming, the children’s spirit, kindled by our own (around five Sillymingers*) attracted more youngsters who began to flood in from the street. It was the negative space in this composition, the gap between the crowd however, that really captured my attention- A little girl hovering by the doorway- half cast in shadow, the other glowing in colour- a tiny baby strapped to her back. For me, this painted a picture of what was actually happening all around us, the real plight of youngsters here, and thus, just how important this gathering was.

Although MCF have set up after-school clubs every night to keep the children up to date with their learning (due to half the day being spent learning Arabic), these Wednesdays and Thursday advocacy classes aim to inform children of their rights to speak, be educated and to receive healthcare. It offers them the opportunity to voice this to their parents and others of authority through traditional dance, singing, poetry and debate. Many speak about topics including, HIV/AIDS, disease, protection against abuse, becoming orphans and being proud of their nationality.

The root causes of lack of education in rural villages are one of MCF’s major targets. Many of these children, like the ones I teach in Jana are forced to work before and after school in order to provide for their families.

Nevertheless, it is quite hard to fathom that this kind of poverty actually exists. Seeing it on an advert or even on the streets is tough enough, but when it is staring wide eyed in front of you in a class, the reality really hits home, and hard. Just yesterday a small girl of about 3 or 4 clambered on to my lap outside and fell asleep, exhausted from what I initially thought was the midday sun beating down on her head. (I can only imagine what my school is like in summer – bare foot and sparse clothing). However, as my hand caught the back of her neck, I realised she was burning with a fever (honestly as if I had touched a hot potato). Confirming this was the teacher who sadly explained this was most likely to be malaria. Although it is a disease that for westerners can be quite easily treated, for this village it is extremely expensive and particularly dangerous for young children, whose immune systems are not as developed. I thought about this on the journey to her hut, led by her equally tiny friend. How easy it would be for me to just gather the tablets myself? Unfortunately, it was at this point that I understood the true meaning of sustainability, something this would not promote. Eventually, I reached a group of women and an elderly lady who mirrored my outstretched arms to take the child. This was evidently not her mother. Oddly though, I did not think twice about my action, as I would have done at home. There are no strangers here- only a tribe whose closeness, in every aspect of life give a completely different meaning to the word community.

*Sillyminger: Dugbani for white people. Here it is common for people to refer to you by the colour of your skin. It takes a while to get used to not only due to the emphasis we have on P.C terms in England, but also because silly minger certainly isn’t a term you going to want to start splashing about in the uk!

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