‘Lack of information’ is the definition of ignorance but where ignorance is deliberate; it becomes a woeful and personal fault.
According to the Penal Code, it is not a defense in a court of law. We all must have had moments in our lives where our lack of awareness of an issue left us feeling ashamed. Where a problem easily solved was happening before our eyes, in our communities and in our towns. We passed these problems on our way to work, as we had lunch in nice restaurants, as we yelled at our TV sets in response to the mindless rhetoric of our leaders, as we drove and walked and slept. I was comforted by the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn.”
This past week, AfCiC visited the three public schools in which it runs feeding programmes.1 Lunch is provided to poor children in schools to improve attendance, performance, concentration and prevent children from resorting to street life. An evaluation report proved the programme’s importance by showing improved results in these schools.
As part of the process, a few children were interviewed. While all accounts given were moving, the one rendered by the youngest boy was by far the most touching. Not because his narrative was different but because his understanding and reaction to the situation was deeply personal. He told us of how he had tea and a piece of ugali early in the morning before his trek to school.2 His mother had not packed him some lunch so he borrowed from his classmates. He recounted that as he looked away in the distance, tears on the brink of falling…it all felt hopeless and that is the most apt description. We intend to post the full documentary on this website soon.
Which is why this article began with the definition of ignorance. Despite news articles and the presence of these schools in our communities, we choose to ignore the basic problems faced by these children, our children. I felt shame. I, a fully functioning adult, cannot have a productive day if I do not eat. Yet we expect the same of these schools. When national examination results are released by the Ministry of Education, the entire country falls over itself to explain poor results. Free education means little when children are hungry and demotivated.
It often repeated that teaching a man to fish is the best way to help. Education is the only way in which these children can transform their lives and those of their families. Yet a receptive child is one with food in his/her belly. If as a country we wish to grow, then the onus is on us to ensure that children brimming with potential are provided with the tools necessary to achieve said potential.
To assist such children, deposit any food stuff, clothes, funds and anything you conceive would help a child, with AfCiC Offices at Imara Plaza, 3rd Floor. Most importantly, be aware of your surroundings and help where you can, after all, “A man is responsible for his ignorance.”3
1 St. Patrick’s Primary School, Garissa Road Primary School & Karibaribi Primary School
2 ugali (n.) a dish with dough-like consistency made with maize meal and water
3 Milan Kundera, Laughable Loves