Friday, June 12, 2009

Education in the Slum

"I hand the Coke to Isaac, and he drinks it as fast as he can, but he stops half way, wipes his mouth and hands the remainder of the Coke to Ranaldo.  Usually, when someone gives me a gift, I selfishly take it home and play with it until it breaks.  I don’t think I would have shared my Coke with Ranaldo.

After buying them breakfast, Isaac and Ranaldo escort me to where their day begins and ends—the alley.  But before entering , Isaac pauses to pull out a potato sack from behind the bush.  He smiles as he explains the importance of hiding your valuables.  “If this is stolen, I have  nothing to sleep in.”   I don’t think I would have considered a potato sack as anything valuable, and I definitely would not have entrusted a stranger with such precious information.

         The boys take a right turn into an alley; the smell of burning trash and human feces engulf my nose before my eyes have a chance to survey their “home”.  Isaac takes me over to a corner of the alley where his friend, John, is sitting.  “Here is my friend, John.  He sleeps in the alley with us.”  John can barely lift his eyes to acknowledge me; he is too busy getting high on glue.  I wondered why Isaac was so quick to introduce me to his friend, John.  If I had a friend with an addiction or a socially unacceptable sin, I wouldn’t introduce him to a stranger.  Then again, I don’t think I am that good at befriending those with socially unacceptable behaviors…
         It really does not surprise me that I have to come to Africa to be reminded of how to raise the standard of my living, but I am a little embarrassed that today’s lesson came from an 11-year–old-street boy who has never been to school."

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