LIBRARY OPEN HOUSE
The opening of the library to students was a day or incredible joy and pure terror! Jesse and I had planned an “open house” library experience where each class of students would enter the library and spend about five minutes listening to our presentation about the rules of the library and this years programs and about ten minutes exploring the books. But on a Friday that coincided with a visit from the provincial governor, we quickly realized we’d have to adapt. When we brought the books into the library, a mass of near a hundred students gathered outside. Their teachers did not show up and therefore the kids were just wandering around the school yard. As we began to invite specific classrooms into the library, I started feeling like a bouncer at a Raffi Concert! It was a constant battle to keep some kids out and let others in. A few times we had a period where we just let in many of the students outside (not part of a specific class) to try to work on crowd control. At the end of it all, we were able to get about 12 formal and three informal classes with the books in the library. It was great to finally get the students with the books, but I quickly realized we would need to rethink our plan for having “open library” time and the organization of our program with the secondary school and IFP student volunteers. Baby Steps.
There was one experience that came out of today that I will never forget. At one point, during recess, in an effort to try reduce the amount of kids in front of the library (and get away because I was getting seriously stressed) I closed the door and began to walk away from the library. As I began to walk away, I started picking up students like a magnet dragged through pencil shavings. As I continued to walk through the school yard, I acquired a couple hundred followers (I often embellish, but this is not an overestimation), yelling quite joyously with every step. It was an experience unlike any I’d ever had. As I walked with this mass of students in tow, my anger and stress slowly began to recede and before I knew it, I had a huge smile across my face. When hundreds of kids are jumping and laughing just because you are there, you can’t stay angry for long.
I continued to walk and soon entered the field next to the school with a view of Mt. Ruby and the airfield. As the students circled around me in a cloud of dust, I began to try to explain to them why they couldn’t all come into the library today. Each time I tried to explain who would be allowed to see the library, one student would start yelling, “ME!!!” and jumping up and down and waving his hand. The domino effect quickly came into play and hundreds of students were bopping around like bouncy balls screaming to be chosen. It is quite a warm and fuzzy feeling to be surrounded by hundreds of students that are that EXCITED about simply entering a library!
Later in the day, one of the teachers came up to me and reminded me that the library and books are new for everyone and I should keep in mind that excitement is an incredible opportunity. She is far wiser than I and I cannot begin to explain the enormous respect I gained for primary school teachers who work day in and day out with classes of 70 plus Mozambican children. I’m a bit scared of the organizational task at hand, but excited to try to corral the students excitement and focusing it on learning how to read.
Sempre Para Frente! Eric
P.S. The mural was done by Rubem, one of my students last year and an incredibly gifted artist. He designed the mural by himself with my only input being the inclusion of the Peace Corps and USAID symbols. We’re incredibly lucky to have such a willing and talented artist (and his friends) who were willing to do the work for free. See more of Rubem’s work in an earlier post of mine here: http://ericwilburn.tumblr.com/post/55337326056/one-of-my-students-rubem-is-an-aspiring-artist