This morning began with the handing out of our textbooks to the students. They immediately began flipping from one pictured page to the next. Soon, the student jabber was deafening as students scrambled from place to place grabbing to see one picture and then the next. In the uproar, one paperback text was ripped in half.
It took no time for the young informants to run from the building to tell Pastor James. Just as quickly, when the small frame of Pastor James appeared in the doorway, silence flooded to the far reaches of the room. There was no gentleness in his voice as he commanded students to assembly. Children quickly and quietly made their way to the mango tree and sat waiting for the pastor who appeared with a freshly stripped cane off the ogombi.
With tense control, Pastor James paced and addressed the children. All the while, the green cane tapped against his leg. He addressed them in Swahili and, although I longed to understand, it did not seem the time to ask Robert for translation. The pastor’s voice crescendoed several times but none as loud as the call out to one young boy, Calvish.
Calvish, who I guess is between eleven and thirteen, rose through the silence and worked his way to the front of the group. Following Pastor’s command, Calvish embraced the trunk of the tree to receive a number of sturdy whips from the pastor’s cane. Then, without a word, Pastor James retreated to the orphanage. Calvish was sent home by Madame Margarate. The rest of the children filed back into their place in the hut and teaching resumed.
It was nearly impossible for me to maintain composure. I was unprepared for the unbridled enthusiasm from the children although, in hindsight, I should have anticipated their response. I was angry that I got caught up in the excitement. Neither was I prepared for the incident under the shade of the mango tree. I was equally as angry with Pastor James for robbing these children of a moment of unbridled joy. By lunch, I was no longer interested in trying to understand. Robert sat quietly and listened as I critiqued Pastor’s discipline. When I had finished, he said only, “Appropriate action was required and taken.” Each time I begin to feel at home, I thought, I am reminded of how much of a foreigner I am.
In the afternoon, Mwanamani sent a worker to retrieve several of the older boys from the orphanage. Soon there was a parade of desks worming their way down the path. Again, students spilled from the school to take in the excitement. In no time, the desks were in rows under the shade of the mango tree. As soon as a desk was set down, several students would jump to claim the seats. Toward the end came four benches and two long tables. Madame Margarate directed the benches to the front and called for the KG students to sit there. At the end of the line came a collection of blackboard frames and Pastor James.
The children sat quietly anticipating Pastor James’ arrival. He walked into the assembly with his hands clasping each side of his chin. His tone had returned to his routine gentleness as he spoke to the children. “We are a very blessed people,” he said. “We have a school that is changing all the time for the better. We now have teachers to help our learning. We have books to help our learning. And look, we have desks making it easy for all to come and see that we value our learning. All the time, we must change for the better, children. All the time we must remember to show God how we value His blessings.”
Continue to To the Beach.