Slice of Life Challenge #15
She wasn’t malnourished but she was definitely dull. Her eyes never lit up and she often regarded us with suspicion. I have no idea what was going on in her mind and neither did the young lady who was taking care of her.
In about September of last year, a single friend of ours decided to take in a girl from a very poor family who had never been to school. This is quite possible to do here, in case you’re wondering!
She was seven and had never held a pencil or sat at a desk. She had simply roamed with her younger brother around the streets. Her mum was quite young and her dad had died in a tree felling accident. She had no discipline in her life at all. Our friend did her best to look after her, clean her up, show her the basics of looking after herself properly and gave her plenty of warmth and affection which she had probably never really experienced.
So I suggested she should come and sit in on our KG class for the rest of the year, as there was about another seven or eight weeks before school finished in early December. This might give her the chance to ‘learn the ropes’ of being in school and we could check whether she might be able to fit in, given her age and lack of any education till now.
She came and went, but it was very hard to get through to her. She seemed disinterested and could not remember any letters of the alphabet from day to day. Her teacher despaired that she was ever going to learn anything. She just didn’t seem to want to.
Then slowly, slowly a glimmer seemed to surface, she began to try a bit harder, her face became less shadowy and it seemed we might be getting somewhere. Her mum still wasn’t very cooperative (being illiterate herself), but beginning to understand that perhaps education would help her daughter.
After the long school break in early February, we again thought it might be hopeless, as her mum seemed indifferent once more. When Wida ran back to her, she allowed her to do whatever she wanted, which was mainly to roam along the river bank and play on piles of rubble at the road’s edge. Those days of course, she didn’t show up at school.
Finally, our friend gave Wida’s mum an ultimatum, “Either you take Wida back permanently or you make sure she stays with me and comes to school every day. You’re her mother, she needs to listen to you, she’s too young to decide for herself.”
Fortunately, her mum decided that it was best for Wida to come to school regularly.
Slowly she has started to blossom again and learned how to smile, her face has became more open and less vacant and her concentration span is slowly improving. She greets everyone now with a smile and a ‘hello’ and she interacts with other students in a much more relaxed manner. She can form her written letters well and she remembers most of the alphabet and some vocabulary and sight words. She joins in action songs and other activities with growing enthusiasm.
Soon she turns eight and it seems like we’ve turned a corner. We have just heard that her younger brother is now being sent to school, so it seems that mum is finally realising the value of education.
Time and again we felt like we were going in circles and this wasn’t going to work, but I reassured our friend that at least we had given it a go. Now I’m excited to see what the future may hold for Widaris!