a major activity of my job is to spend time in/at schools. recently i attended a meeting of the parent teachers association (pta) and school management committee (smc) of kotido mixed primary school, a church of uganda founded school.
the meeting started with a tour of the school grounds, to view the unfinished fence, the falling down latrines (yikes, eh?) and the asbestos-ridden classrooms/dorms. the remainder of the day (it was a 7 hour meeting…) was spent in a classroom sitting at bench-desks discussing these things and what the smc and pta were planning on doing about it.
i paid attention, and even took notes, and helped brainstorm a bit. but, sometimes, my mind wandered…and i started thinking about my elementary school, my middle and high school experience and the buildings i never even thought about.
and the amazingly vast difference between the school buildings i never gave a second thought, the the school buildings i am now presented with at every turn.
kotido mixed only has light in two of their classrooms. they would like to add more, but its just too expensive. especially when they are mostly worried about the asbestos in the buildings.
as i was thinking about the schools that i grew up in, and was educated in, i started thinking about trying to describe these buildings and how my education was conducted to just these people sitting around me.
just like my parents and the parents of the other children i attended school with, they want the best for their kids. they want safe and good schools and structures for their children. they want their children to be in an environment where they do not have to worry about the buildings giving them cancer…or if the roof will fall in or not. i would imagine, in this case, that the worry about the roof falling in is much more of a concern than it ever was for my elementary school.
i’m not sure i could describe my elementary school to these friends.
the clean and spacious classrooms with plenty of desks and not too many students in one class.
the education level of the teachers who taught me.
the field trips we took.
the paved playground we had.
i think their heads would explode. i’m not sure they’d be able to wrap their minds around the spaciousness of my elementary school alone.
or how the floors looked. shiny, clean non-chipped tile floors. they never meant anything to me then, but they mean a lot more to me now.
those shiny, clean non-chipped tile floors are much more than vanity/beauty. (if you can call basic tile beautiful…) but they are sanitary and safe…
the difference is sort of mind blowing.
and it greatly disturbs me.
and, frankly, i’m not really sure what to do about that.