Really need kids

Really need kids

I received the last of the reports today. In all of our schools last Friday we had a special day of celebration for the birthday of Village Schools here in Tanzania. I knew that the kids would collect money like they did last year, and indeed they did. It’s hard to really express the bundle of emotions that I feel when I see that the total of all that they gave came to just over 6 million shillings (almost $3000). What is particularly touching to me is that the money they gave isn’t to improve their own schools – they’ve contributed this money to start new schools for other kids in other villages. Part of me wishes I could run around to all of the schools and just say something, something nice, something congratulatory, to all of them for doing something so wonderful. I wish I could let them know how much it means to me personally that they would do something so good to help others. It’s at times like this that I feel a bit how I imagine Paul felt when he wrote about the incredible generosity of Macedonians. He saw, out of their extreme poverty, generosity – real generosity -- as they pleaded with him to take their offering to help others. All I can feel right now is love for all of these students here. What great kids they are becoming. What happened this year is what happened last year and in years before as we’ve turned September 28th each year into a day of celebrating the birth of Village Schools with an outpouring of generosity. And if that’s all that happened this year, it would have been more than enough to give me pause and let me sit here with a big smile on my face thinking about what great kids we have in our schools. But this year something extra happened, different than in years past.

Here at Madisi before they launched into the games and the skits and having fun, the kids spread out and went to the houses of all of their teachers and the Village School leaders (they even came to our house) and worked together to clean things up by cutting grass, weeding flower beds, removing trash, sweeping, everything all in one short burst of energy. Amazing what can be accomplished in a short amount of time with 600 determined and energetic kids! At Kising’a the students and teachers didn’t have the traditional football game that everyone loves so much – instead they said they wanted to forgo the game and instead they would go on foot through their village and neighboring villages visiting homes to encourage even more students to come to school. At several schools they made beautiful birthday cakes and performed the traditional rite of feeding each other little pieces of cake as testimony that we’re a family and that we’re all in this battle for education together. In many schools the end of the celebration was the kickoff of a special weekend campaign of teachers and students fanning out going door to door, and of teachers speaking in their churches about the importance of education, and of everyone trying to find more of those who would otherwise slip through the cracks and never get to go to school.

On Monday I sat in my living room with a professor from a university in the town of Iringa 4 hours away and we talked about the uniqueness of Village Schools. The government schools are for the best and the brightest – they get selected after two days of tough exams. For those who don’t get chosen, and whose parents have a lot of money, it’s a scramble to try to get into a private school somewhere in the country. We’re the schools for the kids whose parents don’t have a lot of money. We don’t have, and we will never have, admission exams – we take the kids who didn’t do well and who we know are going to need special help to eventually pass. We let people pay slowly over the course of the school year, which sounds so ridiculous because no school in the country does that. But the parents of the students in all of the other schools have money, whereas we’re purposefully seeking out the kids whose parents really do not have much. We give special scholarships to girls, even though it makes no logical sense, because it costs just as much to educate a girl as it does a boy, but we have a deep-felt desire to help girls go to school. We have chapel on Thursdays (because we want our kids to know about God), we have study hall together every night from 7 to 10 (because they have to study harder than the kids who were chosen because it’s harder for our kids to learn), we are really strict with discipline (because we really believe without discipline education is impossible), we teach our kids to serve (because we do believe if you are blessed you ought to be a blessing to others). We went on and on talking about the things that make our schools unique. He called me yesterday to tell me that he had talked with other professors and that next March they’d like to send students of theirs to do their student teaching in schools of ours all around the country, because he thinks it would be good for them to be exposed to teaching really needy kids from villages.

Too bad he came on Monday and not today. Because had he come today, I would have been able to tell him about the six million shillings those really needy kids just gave. Because they want to help kids they see as even needier than they are. Then he’d really know that it would be a good idea to send student-teachers to our schools!