reality check

Growing up, I thought we were rich. I thought this, because to a child, ones world is very small. They only know what they see, they only know what they are told. I grew up outside of the projects. My friends shared their bed with several siblings, couldn’t afford school supplies and wandered the streets of Queens instead of piano lessons. My friends were poor. That made me rich, in my eyes, when in reality my parents were just barely making ends meet. Reality is funny, isn’t it?

I had all my female JSS students at my house again yesterday, all except Abibba, whose mother just passed away and so I can imagine she is rather busy at home. I brought up Kayayo again. “Two have left yesterday for Kayayo,” says Sahada, usually the only student I can get to speak. And then there is the trouble of getting her to stop. Do their parents know that they have left? I ask. Sahada opens her mouth to answer. Someone besides Sahada… “Madame, their families are not aware. They just left,” answers Howa. I just don’t understand one thing. You have been telling me about the lives of these girls, and how Kayayo is so terrible. So why do they do it? Why are girls leaving Sankpala to live in the slums of the cities for pocket change? Salmata picks up a couple of watermelon seeds and throws them at Zuleha. Latifa giggles as Zuleha searches for seed in retribution. I’m about to have a food fight on my hands. Ladies, I asked a question. Sahada takes a breath. “I can’t think of how to say it in English,” Howa says. “But they… they don’t like life here. They are given to their aunts and uncles to work as small girls. They want. They want.” 

They want some freedom?

“Madame, you don’t know how hard it is here. How hard it is on our mothers and fathers. Oh! How we are struggling. You have to pray for us Madame. I pray for our people, that one day we won’t be struggling.” Bite your tongue Maria. Bite. Your. Tongue. “In America, you people don’t struggle.” Sahada, there are plenty of people that struggle in America, they.. 

“But Madame, those who struggle in America are like the ones in Ghana who are very wealthy.” Is that so? I challenge. I have countless conversations like this, people who think we sleep on beds made of cash. That Americans haven’t had a hard day in their lives. Sometimes I let it go, some times I get on my soap box only to be talking to deaf ears.

Girls, you have NO idea how lucky you are. Now I have their attention. The watermelon seeds slip out of Zuleha’s hands and she straightens her back. There are girls your age in America who are less educated and are having sex for money to feed their children. I’m talking about America. There are hungry people in America and people without homes. There are children your age in Africa who are soldiers. There are children who could only dream of an education in Africa. There are villages next to this one who don’t have electricity or boreholes. Am I right? My girls all nod their heads. There is no one in this community that doesn’t have a home. There is no one in this community who goes without food. And there are six girls in this community that have gone on to the JSS level. Six. Except Abbiba, that is all of you. Do you have any idea how lucky you are? So, as of now, I don’t want to hear about how you struggle. I want us to find ways to help these girls know that they don’t have to leave this community for freedom, for hope of a better life by means of Kayayo. Listen to me, you need to take care of each other. Do you understand? “Yes, Madame.” All right ladies, I think its time for you to go home. You have to be fetching water right? As they swept away our mess of watermelon seeds and crusts and were on their way home, Sahada turns to me. “We will see you on Monday Madame.” Yes, smallest time.

“Yes!” says Sahada. And then she gets that look in her eyes. Like I don’t have the first idea what it’s like being Ghanaian. Like it’s about time I get some education on the subject.


rachel.horning said…
your perspective is wonderful and your blog makes me so happy.

i know that i have a letter waiting from you but i have no idea what it says. all i know is that i'm more excited for it than any mail i've gotten so far.

miss you and LOVE your writing.

p.s. if you emailed trayes, he would be the happiest man alive.

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