29 May 2011

The Hard Life of the Children of Sebeta

The lives of the children in Sebeta are really very sad. These children are simply surviving – completely uncared for, dirty, very very dirty and very very poorly educated.  They are treated like objects, up until now we have not seen one, not one, sign of kindness towards them from anyone.

They are lacking in everything, they don’t even have their own uniforms and dress in whatever is available on any given day. The state of filth and abandonment here is incredible.  There are even many students here who could perfectly well be attending a normal state school instead of being condemned to being neglected in this boarding school.  Others who still have some eyesight are in danger of loosing it not only through a lack of visual stimulation but also through infection, which nearly all of them have, helped by the quantity of flies and the amount of filth.

Without doubt we are having an impact on the trainee teachers who are attending our classes…and bit-by-bit we are seeing some advances.  We have discovered that some of these trainees are completely lacking in manual dexterity to the point that they find it impossible to cut out a drawing that they have made themselves.  Evidently they were victims of the same style of education that they are imparting to their students.  A completely theoretical education, without any possibility to develop basic manual skills.  One trainee complained that he didn’t know the texture of an Elephant.  For the blind or visually impaired children this sort of theoretical teaching is even more prejudicial because their deficiency limits their opportunities for spontaneous experience.  We are trying to instil the idea in the trainees that it is much more important for their students to have tactile experiences of many different and varied types and that they would gain a lot from incorporating images and graphics into their classes.  Seeing the advances that we have made after just three days we are sure that we will be able to motivate them to do this but unfortunately many of the changes that would be necessary are out of their control and the country insists on the theoretical teaching. 

Also, seeing that the children do not have any activities in the afternoons and pass the time wandering around the grounds we have proposed to the authorities that instead we work with the children, offering them opportunities to play and experiment with new materials and toys, activities that for most of them are totally unknown.

Debora and I am convinced that playing is an irreplaceable vehicle for their learning.  Watching these children in our newly improvised workshop we can see their incredible happiness reflected in their faces and through their body language.  This alone would be enough to justify such activities without even considering the learning aspects.  For this reason we are thinking about expanding the activities to something bigger and more permanent…a place the children could go to in the afternoons where they could play with toys that, they can feel are their own.  Through these activities they can acquire their own ideas and skills that it is difficult to acquire from their current classes and where they can simply be happy sharing and being children. 

We believe that what we are doing in the name of Mediterranea will leave it’s mark on Sebeta.  We are sure that an initiative as described above is possible, perhaps a lot more likely to succeed than trying to bring about a change in the teaching methods that are rather set in stone in Ethiopia.  Equally it would be very beneficial for the children, since a child that is happy and stimulated without doubt learns more and will have more chance of leading a dignified life.

If Mediterranea agree to this idea, we would speak to the administration of the school…we believe that we will be able to bring over some toys, learning materials but also collaborate in other ways too.  We truly believe that is this a good and viable idea and would be the first long-term project for Mediterrenea in Sebeta.

We await your reply with hope and until then offer you our warm greetings.

Virginia and Debora

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