September 25, 2014

students' shine amidst adversity

gems of oneness, gleaming with radiance, eagerness to learn, purity of heart, hopeful of spirit.. these are the young souls of St. Luke's Educational Center in Dagoretti Market, a distant neighborhood of Nairobi where there is rampant alcoholism and endemic poverty.  inside the school yard there is almost nothing to depict it is an educational institution except for the obvious benches and chalkboards with some hanging sacks hung by nails that have grammar words written on them.  there are no bookshelves, no posters, no computers, no cafeteria, no sports field, no music room, no pool, no auditorium, etc.  the students use one notebook for most subjects, taking notes from the board instead of books because only the teacher has a workbook to read.

what shines as a gem is the students' volition to learn.  despite the physical and material obstacles in their life -- such as being orphaned, or having no shoe laces, or going to bed hungry -- they come to school by 7am with joyful and dedicated hearts to advance as much as they can so they are prepared for secondary school.  their entire attitude is positive toward learning, and striving to learn.  they don't get to be surrounded by clean, colorful walls with all kinds of stimulating materials; they don't get to have enough light in their classrooms because there is no electricity to light the rooms; and they don't have any of the typical embellishments to a school that make it a desirable environment to be in.  yet they are there for six days a week of their own volition and they actually desire to learn.

when i think of schools in America with computers and sports programs that have metal detectors and fear within the halls from all sorts of societal ills for many reasons, i think how fortunate these kids at St. Luke's are.  they are like a family.  they are a community.  they don't fight each other and bring the ills of the society around them into the school.  in fact all of them will profess how wrong it is to drink alcohol.  they know it is killing their community.  the 14 year olds at the school are mature for their age; they are focused on education to get them beyond what surrounds them.  these gemful souls shine in the ways of loving God, of desiring to do service, and of striving to learn.  i am illumined in their presence..
children's class playing the game 'Giants' to practice the principle of unity

children's class drawing a picture and writing a sentence from the board

Joan, a 14 year old jr. youth - contemplating an answer to a question

working on a lesson in Walking the Straight Path in the field behind the school

playing 'monkey in the middle' - boys against the girls