Cracking Open the Floodgates of Hope

The campus was bustling with parents, children, and staff bright and early in the morning last Monday. Moms and dads greeted each other from across the halls as they walked with their students of various grades into the classrooms. Teachers jogged from office to classroom, stopping to greet each other, parents, and students every ten feet. The principal himself strode around the field, here and there shaking a parent’s hand or patting a student on the head. Slowly first and then with more and more volume, the families came, all carrying some sort of school supply to contribute– a roll of toilet paper, a ream of printer stock, a broom or the like. Bit by bit, the campus slowly filled.

Most families were old hats who had been bringing their kids here for two years. Their kids eagerly ran ahead of their parents. The most noticeable ones were the assorted new moms with little ones in tow. They wandered around or stood pivoting in place searching for a classroom or teacher. Inevitably, they found this one corner of the far building, where a dozen moms with nervous-looking 6 and 7 year olds were lined up outside the classroom door, school supplies in hand, as the smiling first grade teacher unlocked the room. The little students had brand-new pen cases, and were wearing their best dress or shirt for their first day of class. Together, parents and children filed into the classroom, and it began to crowd up fast. Parents sat at the too-small desks squeezed in with their little ones and the teacher’s desk was crowded with people, all giving their names, and showing the school supplies they had brought to contribute to be checked off. It was a bustling, nervously energetic, and happy place to be.

moms hanging out after dropping off the kids.

However, as you look around you can’t escape the reality that this is no ordinary classroom. For these students, their best first-day of school outfit is a dirty t-shirt and the only pair of intact shorts they own. Many girls have dresses that are a size off, or maybe missing a shoulder. Almost all of them are going to wear the exact same thing the next day, and the next. No one has arrived in a minivan, let alone a car. Many have walked over a mile and bear the dust up their legs to show for it. For half these first-graders, this is their first time in a classroom. They have had no preschool to speak of, and their parents who hadn’t finished middle school themselves are unlikely to have prepared them at home. The arm muscles of many of the girls, still so young, look weathered from carrying water, charcoal, or a baby for hours on end. The have no toys, no backpacks, and no lunches. These families are not competing against anyone for status or reputation–they’re competing against their own circumstances just to get by another year.

Moms and kids outside the P1 (first grade) classroom.

Over the course of the week, I’ve been able to speak to many parents, most of whom have no idea why I’m here. If they speak English, they each have told me something interesting about where they come from and what this school means to them and their students. The mother of one of the new first graders said that her little boy was the one who convinced here to apply for this school. At just 6 years old he had heard about it from his friends and desperately wanted to go. One dad said that he was so thankful that his daughter had somewhere to go during the day where she wouldn’t be pursued by strange men and persuaded to marry. The conversation that sticks with me most is one that I had with the dad of a new student. I was outside the school gate as he picked up his son, his only child, and he made a point of walking up and shaking my hand. He told me that his son, Elvis, had been in preschool and had received low marks during his penultimate year. When Elvis heard that he was next to lowest in his class, he told his dad that he was going to work so hard that he would be fifth in his class by the end of the next year. The next year, Elvis finished sixth. The pride that shown from this father’s face as he told this story of his son was like a burst of sunshine. He said he was so proud that he had somewhere the would nourish and encourage his hardworking son. I told him that I worked for Zozu Project, the organization that supported Solid Rock Christian School, and he said “We are so excited to create this opportunity for our kids in this community. I am thankful for your help also. We are all of us working together for these children.” His enthusiasm reminded me of the ownership that this whole community has over this school, that they’re in this struggle of hard work to provide for their kids.

Elvis and his dad

This is a land of struggle. Mothers struggle against starvation, fathers struggle against unemployment, farmers struggle against draught, children struggle against diseases, and everyone struggles against abandonment and loneliness. Most of them own these struggles. They pray and they work and they fight hard, even though they don’t even have bootstraps to pull themselves up by. But as this father showed me, there is passionate faith here in this hot and dry place that one day it will be better. It’s like there is a heavy flood of hope stuck behind huge gates just waiting to be unleashed. Over the last two years, Solid Rock Christian School has cracked open the floodgates of hope. These parents are experiencing the first fruits. But there’s so much more to be let loose! There’s so many more children to sponsor, so many more jobs to create, so many more classrooms to build! Just this year we had to turn away over 80 students because we don’t have the physical or financial capacity. Let’s join with these hopeful, struggling families, for as Elvis’s dad said “we are all of us working together” for the streams of hope to flow in this dry land.

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