07 April 2008

Good People

Where’d all the good people go?
I’ve been changing channels and I don’t see them on the tv shows.
Where’d all the good people go?
We’ve got heaps and heaps of what we sow.

- Jack Johnson, Good People
The United States doesn't exactly have the best of reputations in the world right now. I frequently find myself cringing when people bring up the war in Iraq, and sometimes even apologizing for the stupidity of my government (for various reasons). But I am always quick to point out that the people of the United States, it's citizens, are not the government. At least not anymore. I am really proud to say that good people do still exist in the United States and I wanted to devote a little space here to point out a couple.

A number of people read my blog and have sent enquiries about helping out the communities where I work. This blog is devoted to them.

First there is Kesshi. I don't know his real name, but I met him online at a news conglomeration site. We may not always see eye to eye, but he has a good heart. At Christmas, he dropped me an email to see if I needed a laptop. He was buying one of the "One Child, One Laptop" computers and the company was offering a deal. Buy one, get a second for reduced price sent anywhere in the world. It hasn't yet arrived, but when it does the computer will go to the primary school in Madjadjane. I wish I had a second one to give to the primary school in Gala, but maybe by the time I return for more research I will have another to donate.
Children of Escola Primaria de Madjadjane with Professor Adriano

The next group I would like to give a shout out to is the Stone Street Presbyterian Church of Watertown, NY. This is my parents' church. I gave a presentation to the church about my research and the communities where I work this past January. Many of the people in the church are farmers or retired farmers, and they were very interested in the farming done in southern Mozambique. The congregation regularly raises and donates money for famine and disaster relief, but this time they decided to donate some money to learning. They sent me money enough to buy notebooks, pencils, pens, maps, and other school supplies to give to both the primary schools in Gala and Madjadjane. I have already given the school directors the maps and some books which they were really happy to get. At Gala, the world map was at least 25 years old - the USSR was still shown as a country. Tomorrow I am off to buy some books and general classroom equipment.

As a side historical note, the Presbyterian Church (and other church groups) has always taken an interest in Mozambican education. Some of the revolutionary leaders that fought for Independence were educated in Presbyterian schools. The state education system prior to Independence offered education to black Mozambicans up to grade 3 and no classes were taught in local languages - unlike the church supported schools.
Class in Escola Primaria de Gala

Finally, I want to thank my parents. Both taught school for a combined (minimum) 70+ years and are now retired. However, they still are very concerned with education and learning and children. Education and learning has always been a priority in my family. It was always "When you go to university..." not "If you go to university...". Learning opens the doors to many opportunities and cannot be taken away from you. When they heard about the conditions of teachers and schools in the communities where I work AND that my field assistant was working so that he could pay to finish high school, they decided to send me some money to help out. Their donation will help with buying classroom books and equipment, repairing the teacher's house and school roof, and send my assistant on to finish his final year of high school. I already put money in the community bank for my assistant, Salema, to continue school for the next 3 years, but this last bit will help him attend the final year of school in Maputo. As for the teacher's house and school roof, both roofs leak and there are no windows, so hopefully they will be able to make some repairs. As a former teacher myself, I know how difficult it can be to teach if you aren't sleeping well or are living in poor conditions.

Good people do still exist, but many times they don't know where or how to help others. Many times their donations don't end up with those who need it most. The chief of Madjadjane spent over an hour explaining to me how monies donated to charity often end up lining the pockets of people in Maputo or the money is just used to help the poor in Maputo and never makes it out to the provinces. He told me that it is better when people donate directly and the brancos come and deliver the materials themselves - so no one is taking a cut. Despite all the running around I have done in the past couple of days, I am happy that I could facilitate the donations.

I want to end with one of my favorite quotes about learning and education. School is not free in Mozambique and many parents save up to send their children to school - all the while earning less than $1 USD per day. They want their children to have choices in the future.

You have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind about history and everything else, but you can't make up an empty mind. Stock your mind, stock your mind. It is your house of treasure and no one in the world can interfere with it. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.
- Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes

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