Saturday, March 6, 2010

We were 37 in number today, from six schools. Michael Kalokoh provided the perfect start to the workshop, finding a quote I often use in literacy workshops. “Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.” No one really knew who the author, Mohandas Gandhi was, so we had a brief discussion on non-violence and change.

The four key principles of literacy learning that we focused on today were distilled from participants' personal experiences and from research and experiences from around the world (from South Africa to Sweden). Teachers also shared a rich array of information on what they are doing well and what local resources they now use in schools that often offer little more than their volunteer time and a chalk board. All were delighted with the West African books the schools are receiving, especially after we talked about how they could be used as models to produce local child-created books. Then, with a budget of about $100 per school, teachers created wonderfully diverse, locale-specific lists of local materials they will purchase and bring into their classes for literacy learning that supports the above principles.

I was delighted to see Sinnah, older sister of Alpha, attending as a volunteer teacher from Maso. Sinnah, who had been a student at the junior high school until recently, joins the growing ranks of young women contributing to their community by volunteer teaching (four women attended the workshop; a dramatic increase over past workshops). One day Sinnah hopes to be in the position to attend high school. Her brother Alpha, meanwhile stopped by last night shaking his head and wondering what to do next about the current problem on his mind. Alpha, in grade nine, is deeply concerned about the fact that many of his female classmates have left school due to early pregnancies. He told me how he called a meeting of all his classmates (32 boys and 12 girls) to have a frank discussion about the problem and how they, as youth, can deal with this. Alpha was full of ideas (the girls should come back after they have the babies, the parents should counsel their children more, the youth should stay away from the Friday Loma or local market where some go to meet youth from other villages). He really wanted to also talk with the adults and elders but worried that he was too young to be taken seriously and that no one would listen to him. While relatively young in years, Alpha, like many youth here, tackles community and family issues like an adult and also gives me great hope for the future of this community and country.

It's dry season, but we are about to experience another massive rainstorm. Sky is darkening, wind is whipping about , animals are bleating and children are laughing in delight. Got to run and close up here!