Lots going on, but nothing that would make a good story, or that I’ve wanted to write about.
I think I’ve mentioned that during the 50 minutes students have after lunch before classes recommence I make myself available to anyone who wants help. Yesterday I had just one customer, at least in the beginning. A form 1, she brought me a totally unsuitable question for form 1’s and was terrified her teacher would give her that question on an exam. “If he gives us a question like that, I won’t be able to do it and I’ll fail.” “Your teacher would never give you such a complicated question. No one would get it. The whole class would fail.” (later the teacher confirmed it). But nonetheless I mapped out how to proceed with such a question, finding the surface area of a certain solid. After I finished a fairly lengthy discourse, I asked, “Could you answer a question like that now?” Very dubious expression. “Shall we walk through that again?” nod. But after the second time through she thought she might be able. She told me her mother really wants her to learn math, but it’s very hard for her. I explained the math camp we’ll hold an Mji for 2 weeks in August. When I mentioned it was free, her face lit up. But…she lives in Nairobi. Too far away. Did she have any relatives living in Naivasha who would keep her for 2 weeks? No. Did she have a classmate whose family might let her stay? Maybe. Later it occurred to me perhaps she could stay at Mji. There are rooms here and it’s quite safe. Had to run it by Fr. Ngaruiya. His stock answer. No problem. Now we just have to convince the mother that her daughter will be OK. Her teacher tells me she is a pretty weak student, not just in math, so maybe mom will jump at the chance. If she stays here I can help her at night too and the other Mji kids will be her and willing to help her as well.
Today (Friday) I had perhaps 10 form 1’s. They gathered around, some having to read my sloppy writing upside down, but we nailed 4 or 5 questions in that 50 minutes. They went away very happy, so I think I’ve made some headway. I’m glad the form 1’s are coming. If we can address their issues early on, maybe they’ll be able to understand what their form 2, 3, and 4 teachers are trying to tell them. All the math teachers tell me the same thing (and it is definitely not news) “The kids fear math!!!!” I don’t see my job so much as leading them through a certain topic or question, but to convince them that math is doable, necessary and FUN! Definitely uphill work!
Fr. Ngaruiya goes to school, either St. Francis or Ndingi, 3 evenings a week for 1 ½ to 2 hour sessions, working with both forms 3 and 4. One of the teachers who lives on campus is often in the classroom, 7:30 to 9. Yet they fear. But when I slow it down and make sure each part is clear, they get it. I see it in the smiles, the more relaxed body language. I know they can understand. If we could just convince them of it!
Principal Lydia doesn’t have an easy job. Every day, new fires to put out. One girl with typhoid has to be sent home, several with major cramps and no hot water bottle (I’ll get 2 for them), some inconsiderate behavior in the staff room, parents bring their daughters late after midterm break—can’t pay the school fees, another girl who seems to suffer from major hypochondria. Lydia has to be an expert in everything. Truly, she has to be Solomon.
11:01 and I am still in bed, answering emails, texts, talking on the phone and just being a lazy lunk. Need to get cracking soon, as we are invited to lunch at David Mungai’s house. You may recall he’s one of the oldest of the Mji kids. He’s a very sweet guy, full of laughter. Right now he uses his 5 years of medical training at the Naivasha Water Company, doing water testing. It’s not nearly challenging enough, but has allowed him to make that move from student to independent adult, able to support himself and be a responsible citizen. Of course, that is our goal for all the Mji kids. Several are there, but most are still moving along. Mungai’s future plan is to put himself through the final year (s??) of medical school to become an MD, his great dream.
David Wekesa, another Mji boy, who has had more of a rough go of that big step into adulthood, came to see me a few nights ago. Last summer he was not in a good place at all and had done some things that were hard to accept. But the young man who walked in my door 2 nights ago was a different person, clear-faced and open, settled and truly repentant. He had come to apologize for all he has done and to tell me his just wants to get his life together, to decide where he can best be of service and to see what training he might need. We have sent him to 2 different 2-year courses, neither of which was a success. In fact he never finished his second one. We talked about his being a volunteer in a street boys home I heard about some years ago. I’m not even sure it still exists, but I’m impressed that he wants to share how he sank to the bottom and is now coming back up. He wants to help other boys who have lost their way, to find something in their lives worth living for. What a gift! It makes me cry. I cried last year in despair for him, and now my tears are of joy.
There are others who have not made that teen to adult transition yet, but Gregg Boyle of Tattoos on the Heartfame keeps me going. I can now see they will come around with patience and love. I hope I last to see them all as adults. Now is just the beginning.