Torn From a Notebook

The kids from Hanganeni Primary School in Namíbia surrounded us with smiles on their faces. I took off my sunglasses as we entered a classroom.

The teacher explained the school reality. She pointed to a student using her as an example. The girl took a piece of paper from her pocket that had only a few scribbles on it. Then we looked at another kid’s paper that had drawings and the corresponding words.

The teacher explained that the first girl came to school too late and is having a hard time to learn. She went on, telling us that it’s hard to get the kids to go to school in the first place and for those that do go, they don’t have enough school supplies.

Each child had a sheet of paper torn from a notebook. It was around this time that I put my sunglasses back on… most of the kids were 7 years old but that girl was 10. I couldn’t stop looking at her. What the teacher did was a bit cruel, but it was an effective way of showing us the reality.

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I know what it feels like to be the oldest in the class, being behind everyone else. My parents were immigrants and when they returned home after being away for 8 years, I went to a third-year class at age 11. I was 2 years older than everyone else. But I learned a lot and fast.

By the time I went to secondary school, I already had the same level as everyone else and never failed a subject. My parents always gave me the necessary tools to progress. They taught me early on the meaning of hard work but still gave me the option to study and try my luck in becoming someone. It was either that or going to work like they did.

Today I know I made the best out of the first option. I can’t write these words without being grateful to my parents. For their sacrifice and dedication, but especially for the love for their 3 children. The first time I saw my dad cry was when he left me at the airport on my way to college. That moment will stay with me forever, a moment without words that doesn’t need words.

I don’t think that little girl will have the same luck I did. I left the school with a broken heart so I decided on the spot that I would help them. The teacher asked for school supplies as they have nothing. With the help of my family and friends, I sent them a box of supplies, hoping to give a little back.

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