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That’s how things are here...
Thursday, 31 October 2013 Written by fra Ivica Perić

That’s how things are hereIt’s never boring here. One has to watch over everything. Absolutely everything... the construction of the new school... the classes... the students, and... even the teachers. Especially the teachers who, on an exceptionally warm sunny day, like to organize a class day without classes!

Just a couple of days ago, together with fra Aimable, who was spending his holidays with us, I set out to visit the primary schools in our parish. As we approached the school in the hamlet of Bwirika, we heard the sounds of children's shouts, screams and laughter. I immediately knew what was going on. I told Aimable: “Just watch how everything will now suddenly go quiet.” He smiled, as he also understood what it was all about. We slowly approached the school...

The day was beautiful, so sunny, and the teachers didn’t feel like staying in the cramped classrooms with the children. They had carried several chairs out of the school. The teachers were sitting in front of the school and enjoying their ‘sunny conversation’, and the children were playing around the school.

They saw me approaching and, suddenly, there was panic! The teachers were afraid that I would reprimand them. They jumped off their chairs, quickly started to gather the children back into the classrooms and, within half a minute, everything was quiet and everybody was in their classrooms.

Fra Aimable and I were laughing so hard our stomachs hurt. The teachers even behaved as if we hadn’t seen or heard anything. As we reached the school, teaching was taking place in the classrooms ‘by and large’... That’s how things are here...

However, I saw a girl sitting helplessly at the schoolyard entrance. There were two other girls at her side. I thought that maybe, as she played, she had fallen and hurt herself. I went closer to see what was going on and asked the girl what was wrong. The little one could hardly speak. She seemed to be very exhausted. Then she told me that she was feeling very bad because she hadn’t eaten anything at all in two days. Suddenly, the beautiful sunny day became murky and dark. Although I encounter these things on a daily basis, I am always affected...

I called one of the teachers and gave her money, around 1000 Rwandan Francs. It’s just a little more than a dollar and a half. And that amount is enough for the teacher to buy the girl something for breakfast the whole week. After the week has passed, I will go back to see if the girl’s condition has improved. If she is still feeling bad, we will take her to see a doctor.

As we were to find out very soon, the surprises weren’t to end there and then. From the school we went on and on up the dusty road when we stumbled upon a woman who carried a baby on her back and a bag in each hand. I stopped the car and asked the woman where she was going. “I'm going to the Kabgayi hospital,” the woman replied.

Note that the distance from the place where we met her to the Kabgayi hospital is exactly 15 kilometers. And the woman’s intention was to go there by foot with a baby on her back and two bags in her hand.

From my conversation with her I found out that she gave birth to the child by C-section just a month ago and that now she needed to go to the hospital to do medical follow-up. In the bags that she had been carrying, she brought things for herself and the baby, just in case she had to stay in the hospital.

Unbelievable! A woman who had given birth by C-section just four weeks ago, had set out on a 15-kilometer trip by foot with a baby on her back and two bags in her hands. Her husband couldn’t help her, because he had to go to work to feed the family. Besides the baby she’d just given birth to, they have a 15-year-old boy. They also had had a daughter, but she died in 2004 at the age of only three. Of course, we gave the woman a lift to the hospital. She was very grateful.

And again... after all that, rather than feel good, I felt distress. Distress, because the girl from the beginning of this story and this woman are just a drop in an ocean of such examples. And it is these examples that give us the extra motivation to help this society even more in order to make their lives easier and make it possible for them to at least have the basic things – things that in some other countries, on some other continents, are taken for granted and considered completely normal, everyday, common-place.

Translated by Branimir Mlakić
Edited by Valerie Kae Ken

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