Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Day Before Camp GLOW

Just wanted to write a quick post before I turn into a whirling dervish trying to clean my place and get ready to go to Nairobi in less than one hour. Two girls from my village got selected to attend Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), a week-long experiential learning camp dedicated to empowering girls and exposing them to the possibilities of their future. Peace Corps is paying for all their costs of attending. They are giddy as hell that they get to take a week off from school, learn about girls’ empowerment, and stay in Nairobi. Seeing them so excited, grinning ear to ear for the last two weeks, has made me really excited for them. Nellie says she has never been to Nairobi in her life, and the chance to travel outside their school compound, much less their village, is rare.

A PCV who just returned from the first session (there are two sessions, one last week and one this week) said it was “amazing” and that it gave him hope for change. PCVs are usually pretty cynical about the possibility of change, and PC-run events are usually so disorganized as to be more frustrating than effective, so I took it as a pretty rave review.

I invited my campers over yesterday evening to help me make some teaching materials for camp. I gave them a list of quotes by women, and asked them to design signs that will be hung around the conference room at the camp. I thought it would be a fun activity that would let them express their creative side, but they were really unsure of what to do, and they asked me to demonstrate first. Once they understood, they began scrawling freely with markers and gossiping between themselves. I love high school girls.

These girls, and most students I’ve met here, are so bright and full of potential, but I’ve started to notice how the rigid education system takes its toll. Students are taught all the answers, and they are taught not to deviate from them. They are also not used to being asked to assert their own decisions. I visited a primary school one day, and the headmaster would instruct the students to remove their pullover sweaters whenever HE felt warm, and put them back on whenever HE felt cold. Every student had to do as he was told. I was wondering, what if some of the students felt cold and didn’t want to remove their sweaters? Yesterday whenever I asked Nellie and Harriet what they wanted to do, or how they wanted to do something, they got really uncomfortable and had to hesitate a long time before answering. There is certainly value in teaching strong memorization skills and respect for authority, but I imagine that when students get to extremely advanced levels of schooling, there is a huge learning curve that could be flattened if secondary schools were to incorporate more analytical and critical thinking skills into the curriculum.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to meeting the 32 or so girls from around Kenya that were selected for the camp, and I imagine that they will grow a lot in the next week. Stay tuned.


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