Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Outstations Part 2
Earlier this month, I went with Sr. Pat to visit outstation schools in Mungi and Letwa. Sr. Pat began a nursery school in Chepynal and has worked tirelessly in the outstations to help to support nurseries and develop nursery teachers. We went to these areas to see how the schools were developing and what the needs were in each of them. I was also invited to do an art project with the children while we were there.
Our first stop was Mungit, a small village on a mountain top, about a 35 minute drive from Chepynal. It is a very dry and desert like area where there is little water. The school there went from nursery to 5th grade. The youngest students were in a semi-permanent building with a dirt floor and walls made of mud. Grades 3 to 5 were located in a newer permanent building. There was only one certified teacher in the school. The other teachers were graduates of 8th grade. It is difficult to get teachers for schools in these remote and difficult living conditions.
35 nursery children participated in the art project. I had made paper kites for the children to paint and then fly. We laid a large sheet of plastic under a tree for the children to sit on and work. They had never done anything like I,t so everything about painting these strange paper objects was new. It took them time to simply dip the brush in the paint and make a mark, no matter how many times I encouraged or demonstrated it for them. But little by little, we could see them discovering what they were doing. When they were finished they tried to fly the kite, which was another foreign experience for them. They would stand and hold the string. The wind would come and raise the kite and it would fall again. Then, the children saw us run with the kite and watched them fly into the sky. Soon they were all running and laughing. The whole school came out to watch!
In Letwa, classrooms ranged from partially finished brick buildings to sitting on rocks or benches under a tree. No matter where the class was the children were eager to learn. This area is located in a valley with mountains surrounding them. There were over 30 nursery children in the school. There I prepared a simple paper toy and finger puppets. The head-teacher, or principal, assistant chief of the area, and the nursery teacher were all there to help with the children. The children colored with crayons and decorated the paper and bead toys with colored paper. They quickly caught on to how to play with the toy, trying to catch beads attached with yarn to the paper pocket. The children played and played, smiling with each try. The paper finger puppets brought light to their eyes as they saw the expressions of the lion, bear, and elephant I showed them. They drew the eyes, nose, ears, and mouth on their puppets and began saying the only English word they knew…”sister, sister.” I fitted the puppets on their finger and they began to hold it in the air showing me and their friends in class. They were full of life and discovery. Their faces will remain with me for a long time.
As you will see from the photos these two areas are very poor…but they are not without great potential and joy.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
The experience of the outstations, the more distant churches and schools, has touched me more than anything yet.
A few weeks ago the pastor asked if someone could take communion on Sunday to Ptoyo, an outstation about 45minutes drive from Chepynal. Most of the outstation, mission churches, have communion services or ibadas on Sundays led by the local catechist. (Communion can only be given by a priest or a sister, so in most of these places the service is focused on the liturgy of the word.) Sr. Mary and I volunteered to go to Ptoyo to take communion to the people. We arrived at the simple church where children were waiting for the service to begin. The children were very shy around us and only spoke Pokot, the native language. We waited for a time and began the service with the church half full of children, who sang and responded with praise to God. As the service went on, adults joined us and by the end the church was filled. My experience in the parishes that I have visited here is that the church is very young. Children are the church and they are eager to learn, pray and grow in their faith. Recently, Sr. Nigysti, the General Councilor Africa, spoke to us during her visit in Kenya of the need for “life changing catechesis to promote social change.” This is a place where there is great possibility for that to happen. The question is, how will we respond to that call?
"Seeking to make the Lord known to those who are poor, they proclaim the gospel to them, explicitly wherever possible, but always through the witness of their lives. They are open to receiving from poor persons and to allowing themselves to be evangelized by them." C.24 b
Friday, March 18, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
I arrived at Chepynal girls elementary to prepare for art class. As I was hanging some art work I heard running footsteps and the next thing I knew the entire 5th grade class was sitting on the benches in the hallway. I asked them what they were doing and one of them said, “we are here for library.” Everyday I have come to teach the children come and ask me, “Will you assist me with a storybook?” The girls love to read books. Really, books are like gold, treasured by those who have them. Education here is done mostly without books because schools cannot afford them. When there are books, 3 or 4 students will share one book. Sr. Mary Ann Walsh began the small library and would give each class from 4- 8 time to come and read. I’ll begin to do the same for the girls next week.
The past month I have taught art classes to the 7th and 8th grade girls. When I first approached the principal about teaching art he suggested that I teach English or Social studies, even PE. I had to tell him 3 times that what I could offer was art either working with a teacher to bring art into the classroom or as a separate subject. Finally, he agreed, hoping I think that I might teach something else as well. Teaching just 2 classes has been almost like teaching an entire school. The 7th grade class has 86 students (yes, they are all in one class room) and 51 8th grade students. They have never had art class before since it is not a subject taught in Kenyan schools at any level. They can’t believe that I actually studied art in university. In the beginning I am not sure that any one saw the value in the class but after a month of lessons the girls are beginning to have pride in their work. I know that they have enjoyed the class since usually I cannot get them to stop working. I literally have to take the papers away from them while they are still drawing or coloring their work. When I begin to collect the colored pencils they hide a few so they can keep going while I am trying to clean up. One day I simply said to the 8th grade girls (after 15 minutes of trying to end class) “If you want me to come back tomorrow I need to have all the pencils and papers in the next 2 minutes or no art tomorrow.” They hurried to get things collected and as I was leaving asked, “Are you coming tomorrow?”
I am also have a class with a small group of adults who have special needs. They are very eager to try their hand at creating. When I had my first class with them I showed them various things we might do. As I pulled out the each example their eyes just lit up, like they were children at Christmas. They really enjoy the class and are quite artistic. We’re hoping to see what they might be able to do with some of their work in the future.
The sisters have worked hard here to encourage the education of girls and women, which in the past has not been of much value to the Pokot. Slowly, though that attitude is changing. Young girls especially, have to stand strong against the tradition of early marriage if they chose to go to secondary school. They want to learn and dream of being nurses, teachers, and social workers. Pray for them in their desire to improve their life.