Tenke School Visit

Today a group of us ladies went to tour the new clinic that the company has built, and help teach the ladies there how to do laundry in their new machines.  But the highlight for me was an unplanned stop at a nearby school.  All we had to do was peek in and say “Bonjour!” and the rooms erupted in returned greetings and laughter.

As you can see from the pictures, the school is modest, and the kids adorable.  I wanted to pinch their perfect cheeks and stay all day to observe daily life from this most basic viewpoint.

There are no desks to speak of, and certainly a lack of school supplies.  But this school was fortunate to have some kind of seating made out of railroad ties.  (Steel instead of wood because of the termites.)  I’ve heard of kids having to drag a stump or a stool or something back and forth to school every day if they don’t want to sit on the dirt floor.

Recently a friend of mine asked if she and her kids could put together a care package for me.  I suggested it might be better to donate school supplies, and how fun would that be for her kids?  However, there are many problems with that idea.  Charity and donations are not always as helpful as they appear, in fact they can be harmful for long-term growth & sustainability (I’m reading “Dead Aid” right now, can you tell?).  There’s also the question of who will get the supplies, how will they be fairly distributed… there are so many kids in need here.  And finally, to ship them to me forces the company to pay duties on them.  We’ve heard some incredible figures.  A neighbor shipped a $30 mattress pad and found out the company paid $130 in customs fees.  Another neighbor shipped herself a few small children’s books in French & English so she could read to children at the clinic, and the company paid $300 to bring them in.

So how can kids back home get involved?  I’ve been thinking about a video pen-pal arrangement.  How cool would it be to “adopt” a classroom, and record the kids saying hello to each other in their own languages?  All it takes is a digital camera, it wouldn’t cost anything to ship, and it would open up a whole new world for both sides.

What do you think?  Would it work, would kids want to do it?  What else might be a good idea?

5 comments

  1. Fascinating story … makes one thankful for America’s K-12 education system … the classroom-to-classroom exchange idea is great … I see huge benefits for both sets of students …I personally feel that such an exchange would yield excellent language and cultural exposure of America’s school-aged students to foreign-based students and the reverse should also be true … just not sure about the mechanism to make the exchange happen … this is a wonderful opportunity that, hopefully, will not fall through the cracks!

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  2. I think it’s a great idea Jen! I know that they already do some sort of exchanges like that via the internet, although I know internet connection is not an option for those kids. Pen Pal programs are also a lot of fun too. Is there anyway of getting a local NGO involved in the transport of these products as opposed to a company or yourself paying for fees? Do NGO’s get any special rates (probably not, but just a thought)?

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    1. Hey Berkley! I will personally deliver electronic messages via my own laptop if necessary! Digital cameras are kind of common here, though that would be a pretty small screen for a whole class to view. Definitely not computers, though, you’re right. As for school supplies, a cash donation would be more appropriate, then we’d just buy the products here. Win-win. They are available, just not as many choices and more expensive. But I like the idea of the gift of friendship and communication more than cash or products!

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