Kids Will Be Kids
I was sitting in the office recently eating my fried balls of dough, as I do everyday, listening in as a 6eme girl was "telling" on one of her classmates. She was so frazzled that her words were coming out in choppy, incoherent fragments. The boy, the apparent perpetrator in this scenario, stood just behind her interjecting whenever the versions of the story diverged. They eventually resorted to shouting on top of one another to defend their versions of the tale. The crime at hand? A stolen pen.
Children in Togo are really the same as children anywhere else in the world. They come to school when they don't want to. They put their heads on the table and sometimes sleep through the classes they are uninterested in, (normally English). They hide food in their desks and sneak bites from time to time. They even use a bathroom excuse to stroll around the school, taking their sweet time to get back to class. Gym is viewed as salvation, and “pause” (break time) is Battle Royale to get first dibs on the best snacks.
The main difference? Most of my kids are wearing the exact same khakis every single day of the week. They likely woke up at 4:30 in the morning to fetch basins of water before the sun rises. Many of them are walking 6 to 7 kilometers round trip if they come from neighboring villages, taking along one blue pen, one red pen, one ruler, and sometimes not even a bag. Togolese children are resilient. They sometimes must endure hardships that we could never imagine. But they still show up and say good morning, refer to you as “Sir” or “Madame”, and follow orders that many of us would find difficult and potentially abusive. Yah, that third trip in a row they just made to buy rice and juice for the teachers during pause starts to eat away at my conscience too.
All that being said the students here, are the reason I'm still in Togo. I've held no other job that is so frustrating, so consuming, yet so deeply rewarding all at the same time. Watching my students grow over the past year and a half has been a pleasure. And when I start to feel pity for those four boys squeezed together in the same desk, I watch one pick his nose, wipe it on the other, a fist thrown, a notebook tossed on the floor, shins subtly kicked under the table, and I'm reminded that kids are kids no matter where you go.