Saturday, September 21, 2013

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” ― Socrates

Our last two evangelists (lay pastors) leave today for the Methodist School of Theology in Arusha to begin their two-year seminary program.  That makes thirteen men and women who just dropped everything to move to a new area to begin learning.  I have never lived anywhere where learning is as valued as it is here.  Women, especially, want to learn.  We who have been schooled since birth almost by television, schools, parents who were schooled just don't understand how sacred learning is to those who have been denied it.  We teach sanitation and hygiene seminars and limit the number to twenty although it almost always reaches twenty-five.  We have had requests to teach the same thing to as many as two hundred.  Parents will sacrifice almost anything to pay the school fees and buy the uniforms for their children.  Karen's English class students always plead for a second year.  Having a good job to a Tanzanian means that their children will go to school--it's the most important aspect of working (for most, anyway).  I remember wanting to ditch school.  I remember the high number of high-school dropouts (taught quite a few of those at community college in their later years), and I remember how many of my students at the University of Arkansas hated school and hated to go to class.  I once was an advisor for students planning their classes and had more than a few plan their classes around soap opera schedules.  Here, a chance to learn anything is a sacred and holy thing.  You don't have to worry about people not paying attention.  Many of our seminars are attended by nursing mothers whose child care does not get in the way of their education.  I am a big believer in the "gap year" where a student out of high school does something else for a year before starting college.  It is the norm in many European countries.  It just might teach our kids that learning is a remarkable, magical, and enduring thing.  Socrates (quote above) got it right.  We have kindled many flames here, and for that we thank God we have been given the opportunity to do it.

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