So while in Dagbe I wanted to learn as much as I could from those in the village. On my first day on my own I decided to go out with one of the village teachers, teacher Eric. Teacher Eric, is also farmer Eric and also Pastor Eric oh yeah and father of 6. But on Monday through Friday from 9am to 12:30 he is Teacher Eric.
At 8:40 on Monday morning we ventured off to school. WE walked down the road and were quickly surrounded by thirty children literally jumping up and down with excitement in starting their new school week. We soon turned off the main dirt road and headed down a narrow path in between plantain and cocoa tree farms. WE walked and walked and walked and about 20 minutes into the walk we were about halfway there. Then all of the sudden the front boy started running, and then the next one, and then the next, and then ME. Faster and faster down the narrow rocky dirt path we ran.
God thank you for this moment, thank you for these children, and thank you for this day.
Once we reached the school there were an additional thirty children eagerly awaiting our arrival. I followed teacher Eric into one of the two classrooms. The two classes KG-P1 and P2-P4. One of the students ran and grabbed me a special bright blue plastic chair and placed it next to me. As I sat down I pondered what teacher Eric would teach and how he would teach such a range of students. After getting all the students attention he then proceeded to go through the classes morning exercises. They went through their multiplication tables…. 8-1-8, 8-2-16, 8-3-24, 8-4-32, etc. then the days of the week, then months of the year, and then some cute little story about a goat. I was impressed and even more excited now wondering how Eric would do this. Teaching young children in school has always been sooo intimidating to me and as I have traveled and stayed with missionaries ALL of them have had to home school their children. Man o man! I give many props to all the teachers out there that faithfully and passionately work to teach these children. So as I sat back in my plastic chair I waited in anticipation for what was to come. Teacher Eric then grabbed a piece of chalk placed it in my hand and said “Okay they are all yours.” ‘Ummm excuse me! What? Wait no no no… I’m a nurse, not a teacher.’ That’s what I wanted to say but instead I said, “Umm okay, well like how do you teach. Is there a book that you are following or a lesson that you want me to do? Or umm anything… “ He then pointed to a riddle written on the chalk board and said just have them read that and then pointed to 4 books sitting on a desk and told me I could look through those if I wanted to. “Ha, okay thanks Teacher Eric.”
I don’t want to go into all the details because I don’t want to start crying again but the following two hours were…. Horrible. As I tried to teach them the riddle I quickly found out that there were only about 5 kids that knew the riddle all of whom would scream it out loudly and then for the other 25 kids they would just open and shut their lips and make a humming noise. And then for those 5 kids that memorized it they actually had no idea what they were saying. I was frustrated, I felt helpless, I was in over my head, and I felt terrible. I felt like I was more of a hindrance than help. Finally around 1130 Teacher Eric came in and said, “It is time for break. You can go over and rest.” Hallelujah! As I walked over to the neighbors house one of the older students ran up to me and said “Teacher Becca do you want to play some football?” I quickly reversed directions and headed towards the field. The field consisted of 3 bamboo sticks on either side that made up the goals and then in between was the field, which consisted of pokey weeds and 6-12 inch grass, spread on a minefield. Let the game begin!!
As we ran, slid and tripped all around the bumpy terrain all the feelings of frustration and helplessness melted away. Thank you God for this moment; Thank you God for these children; Thank you God for this day! The ball was soon at my feet and I figured why not and then BOOM… Upper left corner! Oh yeah! I’m amazing! Then I looked around and regained perspective, realizing I was 27 playing with 7-12 year olds and I was the ONLY one wearing sneakers, and I was probably the only one that had a well balanced breakfast. Okay so maybe I wasn’t as awesome as I would have liked to imagine but it was exactly what I needed in that moment.
After the school day finished I wearily went back to the house to wash up. Fifteen minutes after arriving home I heard “Madam Becca”, “Teacher Becca” “Rebecca” outside my window. I walked out to the front steps to see 15 of the students standing on my front steps. I turned around and grabbed some crayons and paper from inside the house and as soon as the kids saw these there eyes lit up. Two hours later the numbers had grown to about 25 and each kid had finished their masterpieces. One by one each kid made their way back home proudly holding their pieces of art. As the last couple kids finished up an older man walked up to the door. I greeted him and then he came over and took my hand and in broken English said “My kids said you were teacher. God bless you.” Holding back my tears, I shook his hand back and said, “It was a blessing.” Soon after Teacher Eric walked by and asked if I would be able to help out again tomorrow. I took a deep breath said a quiet prayer and said “SURE”
That night after the kids left and I had finished dinner I tried to put together something that the kids would understand. I sporadically started writing down whatever popped into my head. I also started praying just asking God to help me to help them. After I finished praying I sat back and started to laugh. I had totally fallen in the trap. I fell in love with the kids. I fell in love with the village. I fell in love with Africa.
A matter of belief
5 years ago