This week we have a guest post from Chinelo Nwosu, our Program Manager
At the end of every year, I like to reflect on the decisions I have made and how they have shaped my path for the year. And my personal theme for this year has been: persevering against all odds. Throughout this year I often found myself thinking back to one of my favorite times during my Peace Corps service, that I’d like to share with you!
The first 3 months of my Peace Corps journey began in a small village, Taba, in the District of Kamonyi, in the Southern Province of Rwanda. Taba is where I went through training which included long hours of language (Kinyarwanda), sessions of tech training for teaching the Rwandan Education system, and cross-culture & Health sessions just to name a few. While this time was filled with exciting new experiences, it also had its occasional stresses. Just when those stresses were beginning to peak, we were given the opportunity to put our training to the test. We were allowed to teach the children of the surrounding villages – this was to give us practical training, and it also helped with our confidence in the classroom. For some, like myself, this was our first time teaching in a classroom setting so I was extremely excited to be paired up with Zack, one of my training group’s very experienced teachers.
Since our theme for the week was opposites, we decided to teach Fact and Opinion. “Good Morning class, today we are going to discuss fact and opinion”, Zack said very loudly. After all of the students repeated “Fact and Opinion” in a low mutter, they took out their notebooks and prepared to take notes on the day’s subject. After giving definitions for both fact and opinion, Zack then gave examples, to ensure that they understand. “Rwanda is in eastern Africa.” “It is a beautiful day today.” “I think Fanta Citro is better than Fanta Orange.” After every example, Zack took a poll from the students on whether the statement was a fact or an opinion. He also allowed the students to give their own examples, but before he turned it over to them, there was one last example: “Men are stronger than women”. Right after those words left his mouth the class roared with students yelling “Fact. Teacher, FACT!” Even though taking a poll was not really needed because we knew how the majority felt, we still took a poll. While the majority of the class felt that the aforementioned statement was a fact, there were two students who quietly insisted that this statement was an opinion. As the students laughed at the two, Zack broke the news to them, “Men are stronger than Women is….. an opinion.” The class began to emphatically disagree, yelling “Not. Teacher, NOT! ” “You lie me.”
After getting the students to calm down, Zack explained to them why it was an opinion. They did not believe him. So we decided as a team to introduce them to the wonders of… Arm Wrestling! We showed them a demo. As Zack and I sat on either side of the desk, we quietly argued about whether or not he was going to let me win to prove the point. I won, in both cases. To drive the point home we decided that I should have a REAL arm wrestle with one of the boys in the class. The biggest kid (I believe he was in his late teens) in class chooses to arm wrestle with me. By this time students were excited to see the outcome. The student and I took our seats and Zack prepped our hands for a proper Arm Wrestling Battle. Anticipation was building. I needed to win so that a whole day’s work would not be ruined. I felt like I was on an afterschool special and I, in that moment was an example for women everywhere! Just as Zack let our hands go the Dean of Discipline (a female) walked in and began to cheer me on.
After about a minute filled with grunting and suspense, it was over. I was the victor. The females were beyond excited, including the Dean of Discipline. As my right arm throbbed, I took immense pleasure in changing the way that not only the males viewed females but also how the females viewed themselves.
I am sharing this story because it is one that I often return to when I need motivation. One that often makes me think of hope, promise, perseverance and challenging one’s self to go against the perceived norm. This story of my students makes me think of our students in Zambia and the students’ lives that we have yet to touch. Prior to establishing our nine pilot schools, popular opinion might have been that the children in our communities had all of the odds stack up against them. But with the passion for education and commitment to our mission, Impact Network and our supporters are making victory more attainable for our students. With each day of lessons, each year of matriculation, we are gradually changing the narrative of that preconceived opinion and creating several new truths for our students and their futures.