|Kiwis In The Congo||
I am sitting here in the village of Kabyasha in the shade of an old tree, surrounded by children who have the clothes on their back and little else. This rag tag group of kids range from infants to children of around 12, with the older taking care of the younger. Though they have nothing they play, laugh and fool around as if they don't have a care in the world. Some have little toys they have made out of bamboo, others have a bicycle tyre they push around with a stick, and still others dress up in banana leaves as they act out some story. They seem so full of life compared to our children! Maybe it's just the novelty of the new guys in town. They don't see many white folk out this way so perhaps we are something like the circus coming to town!
Most of the older children are still in High School, just across the compound. They get out of class and make their way over to us in an orderly fashion to say, "Bonjour!" The teaching here is done in French, though many of the adults struggle with French and instead use their own tongue. This might be Swahili, Lingala, Bemba or any one of "who-knows-how-many" local Bantu-based dialects, depending on the location of the village. English speakers in these villages are very rare indeed.
Classrooms a very basic. Almost all have a good roof on them and some windows (no glass), but as far as furniture goes there is none apart from some form of seating for students. Primary school children usually sit on a wooden or clay brick "form"—sometimes there is not even that. Secondary students seem to do better and sit together on a combined chair/desk (usually metal). The classrooms all have a large blackboard at one end for teachers to use. There is no lighting at all, so I'm not sure what they do in the wet season when the clouds are over! And what if you want to go to the loo in the village? If they have one it will be a long drop — a VERY LONG DROP! This one was 4-5m deep and you must be able to squat well as there is no seat (or toilet paper unless you take your own).