As I opened the school gate the children spotted me and the whisper began, “Andrea, Andrea is here!” I grinned and walked down the steps into the playground as the chant changed to, “Fight, fight, fight!” Some little boys had taken to fisticuffs over some disagreement. This was fairly typical of this school. The last time I had arrived to find the Head hauling some boys over the coals for stealing some drinks from the snack bar. They had been purchased to raise funds to replace the school computer which had been stolen. Fingerprint dust was still coating the computer room.
I wondered why I keep coming to this school. These children are from the poorest families. Their parents in the main do not value education. Their behaviour leaves much to be desired. Two boys who had sponsors in this school lost them because they never brought me copies of their school reports. They are not even in school today. Last year I gave several children spectacles. Some wear them, but some do not. The children are dirty, skinny and have teeth full of caries. They are some of the neediest children, but are some of the most difficult to help because their parents do not seem to care. The teachers complain the children come when they feel like it and do not come when they do not want to. The teachers complain to the parents with no response.
Making it to the bottom of the steps I was greeted with a crowd of children and fifty kisses. Their bright expectant faces smiled up at me as they gave me all they have to give – a cuddle. Excitedly they formed in line to see why I had come to see them.
My two year old daughter insisted in being the one to hand each of them their pretty soap bags filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and a colourful Bible story. The children were over the moon. No one ever gives them gifts. They come from families of 8 siblings, and their parents have no money to buy them what they would consider non-essentials. I gave them the spiel about the importance of tooth-brushing and hand-washing, and my heart melted looking at their cute little faces.
I saw the teenage girl with special needs lined up with the five year olds. I saw the wee tot with Downs´ Syndrome, his trousers soiled with urine. I saw the teenage boy still not finished primary school with a huge cut down his face. I saw the twelve year old still in fifth year of primary whose mother committed suicide. Her daughter found her gunshot body. I saw the eight year old now living with her aunt because her step father was abusing her. I saw their need. I still want to help them. I want to give them the chance of a different future.
Perhaps I can help those children by giving the exercise books, pens and paints directly to the school for them all to share, instead of to individual children with sponsors – if we can raise the funds. Perhaps someone will want to come and volunteer to work with the special needs children in these schools. Perhaps we can find sponsors for some who do want to go on to secondary school, and give them that opportunity.