Where are you your most self? It’s a question that I have always pondered and not always known the true answer. Where do I feel that I can authentically be who I was created to be without fear or worry, but instead filled with peace and comfort?
I have found one of these places for me to be a classroom. Yep, the smell of a boutique of freshly sharpened pencils and sight of the childlike wonder of learners faces bring me a unique joy and thrill for adventure. So I am truly thankful that in a country that I am unfamiliar with and surrounded by sights, sounds, and faces I have not been used to, I was still able to be refreshed by the smile of a learner and a rush of joy as I entered Ikhwezilesizwe Primary School in Khayelitsha.
I think that whether in Africa or America there is one way to tell if kids are truly happy–listen to hear if they are singing. Song uplifts the words of our soul to be tangible and when one feels led to sing it normally comes from a place of joy. As we entered Ikwezilesizwe we were greeted by the joyous echo of children singing and dancing. Throughout the welcome ceremony I alternated between smiling back at individual learners to trying to capture their bright wonder in the lense of a camera.
After an introduction by Principal Mayeye and our CEO Taryn Casey, one of our mentors Ntiski Ntusikazi facilitated a Mandela Day Quiz where she asked questions about Nelson Mandela that learners answered and received sweet prizes if they were correct. Funny enough, Ntisiki did not let the kids know the kind of prize a winner would receive. Therefore for the second question, the number of hands raised tripled in number as more learners attempted to win a bar of chocolate or an entire box of cookies.
From there the excitement flowed as we carried boxes of books and reading mats into selected classrooms. After a handover to the teacher with a box of 50 books and a reading corner mat, Taryn asked me to read a story to the class. With pleasure I walked up to the front of the classroom and allowed the kids to choose between two books that I held up! Between a story of a mouse or one about an elephant, the elephant received a lot more votes, so I began reading the story.
A folk tale about how elephants came to have long noses, the book was full of suspense and humor and brought the entire classroom into the depths of a safari, walking amidst all the animals of the land. Much can be said about the power of a book to engross its readers and pull them into a world they never thought they could see.
My hope is that each book will be cherished and loved by all the learners at Ikhwezilesizwe. I pray that not only will they find joy in the stories they read but they will also be encouraged to write stories of their own. Whether on paper or in the way the live, I hope their stories will encourage and inspire the rest of the world around them for the better.
Written by Kindred Obas