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.

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