December 12, 2011

Tales from Rwanda: A Cow in My Classroom

Editor's Note: A good friend of mine travels to Africa regularly as part of a mercy team to provide care and schooling for the children of Rwanda. Below is the first of several notes from her adventures. It's not Disney's Animal Kingdom but the real thing. Enjoy!

Kamate’s Primary School, started just two years ago, consists of two rooms made out of mud bricks, a tin roof, and trimmed tree branches of varying sizes for seats. The windows and doors allow complete access to the natural elements; there is no glass in the window openings and no actual doors to keep out the wind and debris.

Currently it consists of four primary grades – P1, P2, P3 and P4 - as well as pre-K and Kindergarten and its 500 students range in age from four years old to mid-teens. Yes, that’s right – 500 students, which means they attend half days. P3 and P4 hold their classes in the school building. The other grades meet under their assigned trees.

Sydney and I knew that we would be teaching English at Kamate, but we didn’t really know what that meant. We thought we might team teach and brought a number of teaching materials and other supplies with us. However, God had other plans. I ended up solo teaching - mostly P3 and P4 - the better part of the school day. However, one morning I was assigned to P2.

I was bent over writing the lesson on the blackboard, when a student made a noise and I heard something being thrown off to my right. At that point I looked up and immediately saw a cow on my left, my very near left, less than two feet away- and then not just one cow, but several others just behind the tree that held up the blackboard. These are not your ordinary mild Jersey cows, but Watusis, which have long, curved horns. To buy time and keep my composure I said, “How nice! They want to learn, too!” It was just then that the herdsman made his appearance and drove his cows away. I continued on with my lesson.

I absolutely loved teaching the Kamate students. For me it was one of the highlights of not only the 2011 trip but of all three times I have been in Rwanda. But a cow in my classroom! Who would have thought it! That’s real life in Kamate, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I sure look forward to teaching there again.

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