When you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Our rented space for ESL and other activities was coming along just fine until the local school was closed due to structural deficiencies. Days after this big news, we met with our landlord to discuss the possibility of allowing the school to occupy our space in order to continue with classes. Just like that, we went from having a nice quiet space for our classes to then being front and center with 300 children.
The good news with this dramatic change in the community was that everyone knew not only where we were, but what we were doing. News of our “school like setting” as well as the activities that we were offering was the new buzz in town. Unfortunately, our ability to actually work in our new setting was pretty near impossible. Over one hundred desks were carried out of the old school and down the main street to our “Center”.
Kerry managed to continue her english classes with the students. The difference this time was the fact that she was teaching the children “al fresco”. A large mango treee was now the ceiling of one classroom, while a barbed wire fence served as a wall of another. Amazingly, this dramatic change in setting did little to the students spirits. Everyday, the kids continued to show up, on time, ready to learn. The majority of the teachers, however; continued to demonstrate “their lack of good role modeling.” It seems the lack of adequate teacher training, job skills training, mentorship, and materials severely affects the end result: education. While Kerry had witnessed this phenomenon in the school, it became even more clear now that the teachers were more visible, or invisible one might say. Between the all too common strikes, political meetings, lack of money and an adequate system of accountability, the children often find themselves with the day off! The school was now on “center stage” with an audience of not only students, but everyone who walked past our location. The more educated teachers and leaders of the community shined, the adaptability of all involved was a true gift to witness, and the friendships begun a blessing to us. God’s ability to make good come from bad prevails once again!
After approximately one month of over 300 children being crammed into our space, they now are dispersed on the lower level of their old school, in a local church, and in an empty kindergarten room. With this change, all classes are under cover for when the rain begins. As far as our center, one afternoon class remains inside our walls. While this is not entirely ideal for what we wish to accomplish, we remain positive it is for good and remind ourselves it is not forever. And we now have 30 student desks to use at other times in the day!
The jury is and always will be out as far as what the future holds for the students. Not only are situations such as ours (structural deficiencies, lack of materials ….) plaguing the system, but the beaurocratic issues far from our island make it difficult for a child to get a quality eduacation It appears that the government is doing all that they can in order to limit their involvement/responsibility to both students and teachers. Strikes among teachers are very common. Typically a new private school opens its doors at the conclusion of each strike. With each new private school, the government finds itself involved in a smaller system. Guess that’s one way to handle it! With rumors of land being donated to build another public school in the Colonia, we are hopeful.
As the overall goal of our center is to connect with individuals in the community, we feel we are on the right track. With the majority of the “school” gone, we can begin once again to engage folks in projects and programs. The painting and building projects can resume, as well as the english classes and small groups. Praise the Lord! Next update, we’ll tell you about a move we’ve made into a new house…one where there is more than enough room for you to come and stay and get involved!