Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Children we have seen on our journey

Today we attended church at the Brotherhood Unitarian Church in Lagos, Nigeria. This is a Unitarian church that was started in 1918 on an island in Lagos, which is the oldest part of the city. This was our first opportunity to closely observe children with their parents. On other occasions we have seen children in different schools in Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana and once in Uganda we saw children in an orphanage. I was happy to see that today the children we saw were a bit more like children in the U.S. Although they were very well behaved, sitting through the whole church service which was twice as long as a typical UU service in America, they were occasionally "figgety" and even feisty with each other and the parents were sometimes a bit fussy with them as well.

I had no idea what the children we would meet on our trip would be like. We have all seen those television ads for organizations who are trying to "save the chilren" of Africa. But, I didn't know what to expect. I have been pleasantly surprised to find the children we have seen to be much healther than any children depicted on television. They have looked healthy and well cared for. Maybe a few had running noses, but those were the exception. For the most part the children we saw at each of the schools were wearing uniforms. Almost all the children we have seen at various schools, as we have driven through their villages, were wearing uniforms and the uniforms were all different colors, not the navy jumpers and shorts with white shirts I have seen in other places.

It has been quite something to see the level of education these children have demonstrated, singing to us in their own language and then switching easily to English. Today, while driving to the church, 'Femi Matimoju's 7-year old son, read us a short book in English. His mother said that both he and his 5-year old sister are learning English and French in school, as well as Yoruba their native language.

I don't know what their school looks like, but the ones we have seen on our trip have been very, very bare by U.S. standards. They have had narrow benches to sit on and if they were really lucky they had a bench to use as a desk. Only one school we saw had desks for the students and even those were used by two children at a time.

We, Americans, have so much. And UU's in particular have so much and care so much about educating our children. All of us on this pilgrimage are committed to inspiring support for the schools we've visited and the children we've met. In fact, our hearts go out to them. Opportunities to provide support are in development. Let's all be as generous as possible.