*Insert image of starving, naked African kids.
*Insert reality check that my students, whether they own one or five uniforms, come to school everyday looking sharper than a razor blade, electricity or not.
But really, my kids are starving. They’re not starving for whatever you have to offer on your plate after you’re full or on the other end of that 1-800 phone call. They are starving for the opportunities that we encounter daily without even thinking about them as opportunities.
Three weeks ago the Head of the English Department at my school told me that a teacher quit about six weeks ago, leaving three 10th grade classes without an English teacher- an issue I’ve seen at a number of schools here. With exams three weeks away, she asked if I could step in and assist with those classes, starting the next morning. I spent the night mentally preparing myself to manage three different classrooms of about 50 16-year-olds who’ve gone essentially an entire term kee-keeing and paper-hooping their English period away.
The next morning I walked into the classroom and students went from talking and throwing things to standing in unison to greet me, some with looks of confusion, others with looks of excitement, amused by my American accent. After explaining that I would be their teacher as we cover nine weeks worth of material in the three weeks leading up to exams, I was very sure I would hear groans and see eyes roll, but was pleasantly surprised when most students welcomed the challenge.
We did introductions, stating full names, neighborhood and future goals. These aspiring doctors, lawyers, journalists, social workers and all types of engineers were motivated by the idea of taking on the virtually impossible to move closer to their goals.
Let’s be real, it wasn’t all peaches and cream either. There are always those students that need more redirection/teach you a Godly level of patience😑🙏🏾, as is the case in schools in any corner of the world. Given the fact that each of these students overcome situations that many of us wouldn’t dream of, it’s clear that developing adolescents will respond to those situations differently. But I’m telling you, the majority of them did not come to play with y’all.
There is a picture painted that conveys this idea that if you are poor or struggling it’s because you are not working hard enough, you do not want the opportunities that are out there. A closer look at the darker hues in that picture will show kids who are hungry for opportunity, but void of a resource as crucial as a teacher. Breaking down the layers of the picture makes the nuances clearer. Not all kids in “Africa” are physically starving, sometimes they’re just hungry for knowledge, resources and opportunities. Sometimes they just want the chance to paint their own picture, build their own communities and be the author of their own narratives. They’re not looking for our scraps, they’re looking to create a banquet of their own.
So the next time you force yourself to finish your food, “because there are starving kids in Africa,” remember to finish that book too, along with that paper or that application. Better yet, be of real assistance and send some books over, reach out about mentoring a student on this side. No matter the image portrayed, these kids are hungry for knowledge with an appetite for success, and everyday they show up ready to feast.