My first meeting with the parents and guardians of the teenagers who attend the Kilimahewa Center took place over two years ago. At the time, I wanted to tell the adults about the changes coming to this community school –professional Tanzanian teachers, a government curriculum and books, even individual desks. I wanted to drum up awareness of and enthusiasm for these new learning opportunities. (Reminder- these are teens who can no longer access formal schooling).
Yesterday’s meeting was a little more somber; a little more chastising; and a lot more focused, not on what EdPowerment offers, but on how they, as responsible adults, should direct and support their children. What we’ve learned in almost four years of operating in a ward of marginalized and broken families is that there are some challenges that transcend geographical borders. One of these universal challenges is convincing low-functioning parents, particularly fathers, that life can and should be better for their children – but only if their adolescents walk through the doors provided. And sometimes, what’s required is a parental shove.
As the Swahili expression goes, Tutaona – we’ll see. In the meantime, our teachers and the Center’s Director, Grace Lyimo, are putting together a full court press to prep the older students, who will be take the first Qualifying Test (that offers a road back to a secondary school degree) in 6 weeks, and to energize the younger 13 and 14 year olds to work on English, math, and computer skills that will open online learning. I try to remember that many of these kids walk miles a day to and from school in the heat with little to no breakfast).
Despite rejection by a government system and society, a world of possibilities does exist for these teenagers because of EdPowerment. But only they can grab the “golden ring” of education (sorry, just had to use a Catcher in the Rye allusion :).