The working week came to an end, without me realizing that five days had already passed in distant Africa. Friday was the last day of my trial-period at school. I had to make a decision, because on Monday new volunteers would join me at school.
On Fridays, which as the last days of the week have been rendered more relaxing, the students are instructed to wear a sports’ school uniform, in white colour with small blue details. In reality very few kids can abide by the instruction. When I spontaneously asked how much a uniform costs, I found out that it equals to less than a coke in a European Country (13 GC= 2,66 euros). My surprised expression made the teacher to explain frankly to me, that if a family has this amount of money will prefer to spend it in a more dire need. For instance, they will buy fish or rice to feed the whole family instead.
The last class before my selection layed on the other side of the thin, wooden, loose door. There, you can find the oldest age group of the school, from five to seven years old. I had a feeling that this class would be the ideal for me, because of the higher maturity of the kids and their more advanced English skills. When it comes to the second guess it was accurate, while the first raises discussion. In this class, as in every other, the fighting was considered an exciting hobby. When the teacher is not present they become noisy and aggressive. When I tried to detach one boy from another, I discovered that they struggled even more furiously than before. After serious thought, I reached a conclusion: they enjoy fighting that much, because there are no toys, colours, clay or even enough space in the school to direct their admirable energy. I had to accomplish, by any means, to keep them busy with practically bare hands.
I had also a little new inconvenience to face, that would disturb me for the next two weeks. The day before, on the way back from the mall, while crossing the road, I triped on my shoes and fell solemnly on the cement road. The result was that I torn my favorite thin and airy pants and of course I got two big wounds on both of my knees. Random people on the street noticed my limp and looked at my ugly big wounds. They all said “I’m sorry”, as a way to sympathize with me. Right after the incident I visited a pharmacy, which was luckily on my way. The woman treated my wounds by implementing two medicines. The one was the most hated alcohol, while the other was an unknown substance to me. It is called violet, due to its mov colour apparently , and has the ability to harden the blood and create a violet crust. Every time that I made any slight move to walk, the wound opened unavoidably. I was thinking that it should be impossible to keep the kids in a safe distance from my open wounds.
However, when the children neared my injuries the next days, I pointed at my violet knees. Then they opened their eyes widely and said the familiar sympathetic “I’m sorry”. Anyone unaware, that was heading with power towards me, was shortly informed by the others and the “I’m sorry” followed. Soon I detected the violet substance in many kids’ little injuries. I speculated that it is used so broadly here because an open wound is succeptible to infection by the dust which is covering everything and filling the air.
At 12 o’ clock, two girls from the class helped the teacher to distribute the food to the rest of the students. The menu included Banku, a traditional ghanian dish which is a mixture of corn dough with cassava, and fish in a red sauce. First of all, everyone directed with shut eyes a prayer to God for the “Daily Bread”. The portions as always had to be carefully and fairly shared in the bowls. But the tin – bowls did not suffice for all of the students. Hence, the two girls were waiting for the people that have been served first to finish their lunch and then they were collecting the empty bowls. The same bowls were used to be filled again and were offered to the remaining kids. Everyone was patiently sitted in the little wooden benches, expecting their turn. In the end, the two girls, me and the teacher have been left. In recognition of the girls’ contribution and patience, they received a much bigger portion than their classmates’. Still not bigger than mine. I was offered the lion’s share. Although I appreciated the gesture of the teacher, I declined the huge amount of food and only kept some to taste Banku for the first time. During my lunch, the students who had not gone out to play, surrounded me quietly staring at my little Banku and the too-spicy-for-me sauce. I offered the remaining food to them and they rushed to eat every last bit of it. This became a habbit soon. They knew, that I would not finish my food, and always expected peacefully the last mouthfulls.
I was told that some of the students in the class have no other meal than the school lunch during the whole day. Moreover, a boy was missing from his first row seat for a week. When he came back to school, I asked him why he did not attend school for the past few days. Due to some sickness?” His answer was natural and honest. His mother did not have the money to pay his lunch at school that costs 1,50 Gc which equals to 30 cents of euro.
I could not hep but recalling a famous expression in the so called “civilised” Western World, which is used by parents to persuade their kids to eat all of the food : “The children in Africa are starving and you are defying your precious food”. It’s been so overused during our childhood that is hardly believed. Many think that it is a trick from the parents. Even those who believe that there might be a grain of trueth in this expression keep their consience clean by this notion: ” Even if I don’t eat my food there is no realistic way to offer it to the hungry children in Africa”.
The heartbreaking trueth is that those kids, of whom I have been hearing so often, are real. I have actually met those kids.