Sunday, May 24, 2009

school daze

I met a woman who teaches art classes in another village.  We've become friends so I asked if I could come and see her and see what she does.  The village is about 30 minutes from here down dusty bumpy roads winding along jungle river.  She is an artist in every sense, from her clothes to her walls to her manner of being, this woman.  I like her.  So she takes me to the school where she teaches, she shows me her ramshackle classroom and she's somewhat embarassed, not of herself or her work but of what is painfully obvious, these kids have nowhere close to what they need. 

She volunteers her time here, she's involved in the village and is commited to the children.  Her art space is at the local school and as we walk the kids swarm her.  Art today they ask no children, not today and we keep walking.  She shows me pictures, she has shown the kids all kinds of art from puppet making to cassava root to macrame.  I try and teach them things they can turn into an income one day if they choose.  It's obvious how much she's done with so little, her passion and sense of community are nearly falling off the walls.

As we are wandering around the school I see the bathrooms, outhouses really and I poke my head inside. I hear the little girls who've been trailing me start to laugh so I look at them that's the boys they say and giggle. Whoops I say but there are no signs so I don't feel so bad, apparently you have to be in the know to know the drill.  No matter who uses them they are terrible, they are so dirty and I want to cry and I can't imagine M every using these one day even though this isn't the school she'll go to I wonder what those look like and make a mental note that I've got to check them out before next year.

I say as much to my friend who already knows the score.  I tell her I can't imagine how people in charge could not care about this, not the teachers themselves but the higher-ups, the ones who set standards and make the rules and allocate funds and she laughs.  They probably send all their kids to private schools and I am sad because I am sure this is true. I tell her I wanted to talk to her about bringing some art classes to our village but now that I've seen these bathrooms it seems silly in comparison to even ponder but at the same time it's why she does it at all, to show these kids the world is bigger than these bathrooms and that they can do anything they set their minds to in this life.  
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7 comments:

maggie, dammit said...

And you do what she does with this blog, I hope you know.

Amber said...

I think they still need art classes. For exactly the reason you said - the world is bigger than the bathrooms. But with things as they are, the kids aren't going to see that without someone fighting to show them.

flutter said...

without some form of artistic expression, I would have died a long time ago.

painted maypole said...

well, i may be a bit biased, but I think education in the arts is just as important, and perhaps MORE important, than a clean bathroom

although, you know, I clean place to set your bare tush is a good thing

jaded said...

There is a need, so your inquiry isn't silly. The needs of the world are so great, and it is impossible to tackle them all at once.

krista said...

i know there is a metaphor floating around the ether somewhere that will make me find sense in the fact that such a simple thing as a clean bathroom is a luxury to many people.
i'm just not sure i care to find it.

Z said...

A few years ago, when I was still a governor at our little village school, there was a problem with the toilets getting smelly by the end of the day. We considered employing the cleaner during lunchtime, but then someone suggested making the cloakrooms looking nicer and talking to the children. Pictures were put on the walls, flowers on the windowsills and there was a talk given at assembly about respect and leaving the place as you'd like to find it. The problem vanished. No more peeing on the floor, no paper left, it was immaculate at the end of the day,