Hungry to learn

A few days ago I received a follow-up report from some of the adult-literacy teachers trained last spring in Mbuji-Mayi, Congo. Attached were some fuzzy photos, including these.

Centre de Kamiji Kapangu et Kamiji Malenga, andragogue Patrice Yamba 001 (1)

Version 2

My first response was to feel overwhelmed, even at a safe distance, thousands of miles away.

First of all, any reporting from the land of very few computers and sporadic, expensive internet connection is rare and extremely valuable. Mbuji-Mayi is a sizable city but very much a backwater these days. This was the first taste we got of results from the April training. See here and here.

The overwhelm was because this teacher-training project is almost too successful for its own good. It is tapping into an enormous demand, which volunteer teachers like Patrice Yamba, seen here wearing the same red shirt he wore often during the training, are struggling to meet.

Patrice is teaching three literacy classes in the Tshiluba language, each with between 60 and 100 students. His classes are outside. Few texts, no blackboard yet (he’s supposed to get one soon). I’m wondering how any of the pupils can learn anything–though you see that they are raising their hands, not to respond to questions but to practice writing in the air. That’s part of the method.

But no one envisioned classes of this size. We allotted 20 textbooks per teacher. I guess Patrice didn’t want to say no to several hundred illiterate women who showed up when he put out his shingle, so to speak.

He says that a neighboring village chief is pestering him to set up classes there, too.

Patrice is just one of several dozen teachers who have gone to work in that region since April. While none of the others have taken on so many students, they report extreme demand for their services.

So do teachers from the other regions where we’ve conducted trainings. And I’m sure the ones we are about to train, in what we envisioned as the last of four regional trainings, in early August in Tshikapa, will encounter the same needs.

Obviously, we’re going to have to train more teachers. Fast. The next step of the project will be to select some of the most gifted teachers and prepare them to train others.

This was to happen in the nebulous future–when we get more money for the project. We have already run through most of our funds and are conducting the Tshikapa workshop on a wing and a prayer. But it looks like Stage Two needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Can you help?

Who are “we”? First of all, the women leaders of the Congolese Mennonite churches. Secondly, their American partners, Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission. I am helping oversee this project on behalf of AIMM. Third but not least, more than 150 volunteer teachers trained, most already at work. They need your encouragement and support.

It costs about $400 to train and equip each teacher. Textbooks are $4 a set. Teachers and supervisors need some funds for transportation and communication. We need a few computers and cameras.

To contribute to this project, go to the AIMM website. Where it says, “add special instructions,” write “Congo literacy.”

I’m going to the Tshikapa training workshop in August. I have a feeling it won’t be my last look at this project.

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