During the course of our latest trip we were able to visit several schools. Most are doing well, even though several are operating in difficult circumstances. It's great to see the combination of eager student and enthusiastic teachers. We were saddened to see that one school, which had been the pride of its village, struggling. The number of pupils had dropped, the classrooms were in disrepair and the qualified teaching staff had left. There was an air of desperation: basic educational materials - paper, pencils, chalks - were lacking. A couple of rooms were occupied with junk, another had not been repaired following damage from a falling tree. A gardener and a caretaker had been dismissed and the school garden, which had previously provided both food for the children and a small income from the sale of surplus crops in the local market, had fallen into disuse. We provided what help we could but it was beyond our means to fund the repairs and wage bill for the little school. It appeared that the people who had sponsored the school for several years had been unable to continue and the villagers had withdrawn many children and sent them to a new kindergarten a short distance away.
We made a couple of visits to this new school - what a difference. The head teacher already was in charge of a large lower-basic (Junior) school and had decided to provide the youngest children with fully qualified staff, breakfast every day, medical support if needed and a very happy atmosphere. She funded much of the initial cost of this operation from her own pocket. We made a contribution towards the cost of rice, provided a large number of dictionaries which had been presented to GOES (and for which we had paid Thomas Cook a large sum of money as 'excess baggage'!) The school seemed a truly happy, industrious place of learning.
I'm haunted by that other, crumbling little school. We had known it in happier days, I had sat in the shade of a tree and taught previous generations of teachers a little more about English language and told stories to youngsters who seemed to enjoy hearing - and helping to make up - tales from two continents.
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