School’s (not quite) Out for Summer

School may be out for summer back home, but in Congo the kids won’t start their break until the 2nd of July, the coldest part of winter here. My hometown friend with the pen pal project managed to grab another round of letters and videos from her son’s class before they finished out the year, and on Friday I went back to the school to see what we could accomplish. It had been several weeks without any news from our liaison, so I figured there hadn’t been much progress. I went expecting to have to present the newest letter and video from Kansas for the first time.

It turned out I was totally wrong. Not only had the kids already received the materials, but they had already studied them, started their responses, and posted the printouts up on the wall.

But not on the wall of their classroom… they were on the wall of the principal’s office! Along with those of the first round, the Kansas kids’ photos have a prominent position next to a poster of the Presidents of Africa.

VIP wall

VIP wall

Either the principal’s office doubles as a storage room/library, or these are his personal favorites. Either way, I like these handmade visual aids too.


Artwork, visual aids, boxes

More postings — the school schedule, organization chart, disciplinary council, etc.


the wall behind the Principal’s desk

While I waited in the principal’s office, the kids were busy finalizing their letter to my friend’s son’s class. Our liaison is determined to impress, and he requested that the slightly askew hand-written letter be rewritten by another student with straighter handwriting. Cute. After that, we went outside where I took a few videos of the kids playing jump rope using a long, very well-worn rope, while chanting in French, Swahili, and maybe another language or two. Our liaison told me they would like to teach the kids some new chants that are educational at the same time, so that they continue to learn while they play. “Quand on chant, on apprend.” (When we sing, we learn. A lesson I’ve been trying to apply in my English classes, and my own French studies as well.)

Jump rope

Jump rope

After recess we went inside the classroom, where the kids rearranged all their desks and set up a little “stage” to film a skit for their pen pals. It’s hard to tell whether the skit was their idea, their teacher’s, or the liaison’s, but regardless he played a very active role in coaching and directing them to speak up! Smile! They rehearsed their skit several times under his direction, whispering to each other “Silver Lake!” whenever someone mispronounced it “Silver Lac.”

It was a rewarding way to pass the morning. The whole thing was well organized, and each time I visit I’m impressed by how patient and polite such a large group of fifth graders can be. I think the whole school is very happy and rather proud to participate in this project, thanks to my friend!

Previous article on this subject: Getting Schooled in the Congo


  1. Your idea to start the pen pal project is great! Children on both sides of the globe are learning from each other. Very impressive.


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