Archive for February, 2011
I am a fan of Greg Mortenson, and you must read Three Cups of Tea if you have not yet done so. The need for improved education worldwide rivals the need for health care as “most important” in my mind; I am not sure which is more important.
Hannah is in first grade in a public school here in Lospalos. I took her to school today. Usually her dad takes her because I am working, but on Saturdays, it’s my chance. I have been a few times, but today I took the opportunity to look and watch again, then I went to the main office and sat down with the principal. I asked him directly, what he needs for the school, and he quickly gave me a long list of things. I asked him why the government wasn’t providing these things. He said, they have too many schools to provide for, and they aren’t meeting all the needs. Clearly.
Hannah’s school is better than some. But, I just want to share a bit of reality.
The first graders number about 150 by my count. they are divided into 3 classrooms. One classroom has no desks, except for the teacher’s desk. this morning I saw 45 little ones sitting on the floor, in their green and white uniforms, writing with their pencils in their little notebooks. Not a desk or chair for any of them. Hannah somehow got in the classroom with desks, some of which are the individual kind, some sit at tables, 3 to a table.
the teachers have a blackboard and chalk. Some rooms have a few pieces of paper on the wall with some schedule or info. As for posters, alphabet, or anything colorful, the room has only the kids uniforms to bring light to it. Teachers get frustrrated easily with 40 or 50 kids to teach. In past times physical punishment for not knowing your lessons or misbehavior was accepted. Though Timor has now outlawed teacher’s using such tactics, old patterns die hard, and many of the teachers at Hannah’s school are oldtimers.
Today, the teacher led the class in the Ave Maria in Portuguese (Hail Mary), then scolded kids in the class who didn’t know the prayer, or said it improperly. She said, “look at Hannah, she is the only Protestant in the class (all the rest are Catholic), but she knows the prayer and the sign of the cross better than you! What’s wrong with you kids?”
Anyway, Hannah is learning how to write letters in cursive, she is learning some portuguese, songs, prayers, games at recess, and how to get along with other kids at school even when they are mean. She is so far coping with a teacher who can be mean and scary, and so far avoiding punishment. At home we do our informal lessons, and reading, of course.
I would love to hear your perspectives, all you who read this. Support is always great, but other ideas, your own thoughts, please share. I don’t know anyone else who has had their first grader in a public school in a developing country. I want this to be a catalyst for the benefit of more than just Hannah, but this issue of education hits home when it affects her/us so directly.
Ok, once a week was optimistic. But we’re doing better than once a month! Hannah’s in school at the public school and that’s been an adventure. She’s doing well and enjoys it though we’ll see…. Simon has a new friend, Junita who is helping watch him during the mornings and that is good.
We took a paralyzed guy from a village into town the other day and that was tough. We’re hoping we can follow up with the family and get him set up with some kind of program for getting around. Other patients are doing better. One guy who’d been sick for a long time finally got on the Tb program and is much better after a week. And we found a surgery for a kid with a cleft palate in April.
It’s been raining like crazy. We made a trip to Dili last week and it was like driving down a river at points. The road is getting worse all the time. Wait till its impassable then it’ll get fixed (maybe). Otherwise we’ll be taking a boat from Lautem to Dili!
We visited the village of Foema’a last Thursday for our bimonthly mobile clinic. Honecelencio, a little boy of 8 years, was brought by his aunt and uncle. They reported he had continued fatigue, and that his lips and gums were unusually dark in color. As I listened to his heart, I suspected he had a congenital defect from the sound of the murmur. His small size along with other suspicious signs suggested his condition was indeed one that needed further follow-up without delay. While he wasn’t in acute danger at the moment, I made the decision to take him to Dili to consult with Dr. Dan at Bairo Pite Clinic that day. Tom was leaving for Dili as soon as we returned from our mobile clinic, so the transportation issue was easy. Usually, gettting a village person to Dili is an epic requiring money that many don’t have ($7 per person for bus fare, once you get into Lospalos, which is 8km from Foema’a, so a long walk, or another cost for riding in the back of an openbed truck. Even 50cents is a challenge for many.) Once in Dili, you must stay with family and eat, so if you don’t have family, forget it, and if you don’t have money, you can’t easily eat.
Anyway, within 30 minutes, little Honecelencio and his uncle were clean, changed into travel clothes, packed and ready to go. Turns out his mom and dad live in Dili, and he lives here with his aunt and uncle. We drove back to the clinic, and the little guy ate heartily a big plate of rice and vegetables. The clinic staff eats together every day for lunch, and there is always enough for extra guests. Nothing fancy, just rice and some variation of a green leafy veg every day. I called Dan to give him a heads up. Soon, Tom, one of the clinic staff and Honecelencio and his uncle headed off with a letter to Dr. Dan about my concerns and suspicions.
I talked to Dan the next day, and an EKG and xray along with Dan’s cardiac exam suggest a VSD (ventricular septal defect) with congestive heart failure. Dan has the boy in-patient in his clinic on medication, and hopes to keep him there until the cardiologist comes in a month and he can get an echocardiogram on him. If it’s not too late, Honecelencio will need surgery to repair the hole in his heart.
Please say a prayer.