June 21, 2018

When It Just So Happens

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This blog was written by Learning Leader Bill de Jager who is working alongside co-leader Peter Meerveld with Belizean educators and leaders as part of the Developing Strategic Plans Walking Together project.

Prior to the leaders' conference this week, Peter and I visited some of the Presbyterian Church  Schools.  Some of what we saw and heard deeply touched our hearts:

We turned off the main city road and began the bumpy drive down a dusty lane.  A  cemetery full of tombstones loomed on the left, while to the right stood homes tottering on wooden stilts stuck in the swampy ground. We were waved through a police checkpoint, very aware of the sub machine gun sullenly cradled by one the officers. Arriving at the inner-city school, we soon sat in on a school staff's anguished discussion with members of the community police force.  Several teachers shared their frustrations when attempting to discipline extremely belligerent students, and insisted on renewed support from the police.

We sensed how difficult teaching and learning can be when a Christian school plants itself in the middle of very poor and probably dysfunctional community.  The resilience and commitment of that staff has to be admired and supported.  Teaching is never easy; at this school the challenges are compounded.

When it just so happens that the classroom in which you teach still has no electricity, (while others in the same school bask in lighted rooms, swirling ceiling fans and working electric outlets), you have to just make do with what you don't have.  No PowerPoint; no moving air to counter the oppressive heat and humidity; no educational videos.  Your hope is that some day the capped wires patiently hanging from the ceiling can be uncapped and connected to working lights and fans.  Perhaps some day there will be additional money in the local budget or maybe another EduDeo HANDS team will come and finish the work.  In the meantime, you just have to creatively refine the use of paper and pencils for continued learning.

We heard the story of a teacher willing to commute three hours on a bus every school day so that students in a teacher-less classroom can continue to learn. So it's up at 5:30 am, on the bus for the bumpy ride from a village to the big city, teach all day and then back home again.  The cost of daily bus travel makes a significant bite into a limited salary.  It's an impressive commitment!  Yet, if the bus ride home is used as a moving office for marking student work and planning lessons, school work is over when arriving home.

When it just so happens that your parents can't afford high school tuition, then you just don't get to go to high school.  Even if you are academically astute. So next week you will celebrate Grade 8 graduation with your classmates, and then you, at the age of twelve or thirteen, will probably be working somewhere somehow, expected to add to the limited family income.  When it just so happens that you live in poverty, doors of educational opportunity slam shut quickly.  Unless local and international subsidies are offered.

We heard a principal's joy and pride of hosting a successful soccer tournament. She called it their "soccer marathon."  Several schools from the neighbouring villages attended the community event.  The recently-completed fence by an EduDeo HANDS team helped contain all those eager soccer players and supporters. 

Sometimes when it just so happens, it can be altered when a ministry and an international partner walk together to reopen those doors. And then all our hearts are touched with great joy.

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