When Ngartia, this pal of mine called up to ask if I were up for teaching some kids poetry, I was super excited and instantly said yes. That was until I remembered that for one, kids are cruel beings; cruel in that they have not been taught to pretend and tell you nice things if you’re blundering. Second was when he told me that the workshop was set to happen at All Saints Cathedral and I was ready to back out if I was teaching kids about some “Jesus loves me” shit.
But then he explained it’s just the church compound and no, there was no rule about making god poetry.
The excitement bubbled back eventually as I did my homework and realized that the only way to get to kids is to not take myself too seriously. Besides, it was freaking poetry I was to teach. Literally telling them to tell me how they feel!
I also wanted this very badly because of experiences I had while interning for the annual Storymoja Festival in 2014. During the festival, I noted with disappointment and a little anger the explicit differences between kids from public schools and those from international schools. Even in cases of private schools from remote areas, I noted the kids were less likely to share their thoughts on something because from my own experience, I know of teachers who snap at you to not be a “kimbelembele”(an attention seeker) and make a fool of yourself, of them, and the whole freaking school.
And from the various workshops, while away from their teachers, I realized that these “uncooperative” kids who contributed nothing to discussions, actually had opinions- and good ones too- that they could have voiced if only they’d felt it was fine to speak their mind!
So this was a chance to make right something and that stubborn goal won over every fear I previously had.
Come Saturday morning and I am tired as fuck having slept at 3am after a farewell party to classmates done with campus, and later from completing a term paper I’d procrastinated for weeks. Day was misty, grey and freezing, and a small part of me wished that all parents just said, “It’s too cold for children to be out” so I could crawl back into bed and sleep the whole day. Literally if it weren’t for sheer angry stubbornness at being awake already and wanting to make the day count for something, I could have backed out with zero regrets. The chocolate fudge cake Ngartia bribed me with, also won me over and killed any thoughts I had of abandoning him to whatever hell the kids put him through.
So now that we were in this together, our approach consisted of asking them questions that would prompt them to tell more about what they found interesting and all. Incorporating song helped the lost ones to know that songs were merely sung poems- and made them more at ease because who doesn’t know a song at least, right?
The weather remained chilly but kids were not deterred and many showed up. What ensued was kid after kid telling me of stories they love, their favorite teachers and pets and other things, and I must say, it was all very heartwarming meeting all these kids with different personalities- and each just speaking their mind.
Sadly I could not reach all the kids we interacted with but about four gave me the go ahead to post their poetry here. And I intend to do just that in the next three blogs or so.
P.S- I think I liked being called “teacher”. Name has a nice ring to it 😉