Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Less Than Half

My buddy Rudy got me hooked on yet another TV show. (I imagine those of you who remember my "Kyle XY" days are groaning right. Sorry, guys.) This one's called "Off the Map" and it's about a group of doctors running a free clinic in the South American jungle. I'm really enjoying it except for one thing- very bad idea to watch a show about a developing country in a developing country. I'm constantly muttering, "That wouldn't happen... That's so unrealistic!... Oh my God, it's totally not like that!" For one thing, their clinic has stuff like a working X-ray machine and a sonogram machine- Pah! The village has no trash in the streets, all of the women doctors have perfect hair despite the supposed jungle heat, they eat sandwiches for lunch, etc etc. In one episode, one of the guys even prints a photo to send to his family and I'm thinking there's three things wrong with that: 1) There would not be a post office in a village that size. 2) There would not be a printer in a village that size. And 3) even if there were, it would definitely not print a picture of that quality. Most annoying to me is that virtually all the villagers miraculously speak enough English to communicate with the doctors who don't speak Spanish, aka the local language. That's not even true in Ghana, and it's an ENGLISH-SPEAKING country for goodness sake. Ok, ok, I know that's just a matter of making the show comprehensible to American viewers, but still- !
Yes, I have turned into one of those people.
So to avoid driving myself- and anyone within a half mile radius when I get really worked up- bonkers, I decided to avoid stuff about Africa while I'm in Africa.
Well, my mom sends me all her issues of "Reader's Digest" and "Guideposts" since both are nice and compact for mailing purposes and I'm constantly desperate for reading material. I happened to pick up the September issue of "Guideposts" while I was eating lunch today and came across an article by reporter Kate Snow called "I Want To Read." It was a tribute to Kimani Nganga Maruge, a Kenyan man who held the title of world's oldest student until his death.
To paraphrase part of her article: According to United Nations' statistics, less than than half of elementary school children attend school in most African countries- and even less in rural areas and city slums. "Schools lack teachers, teachers are untrained and classrooms often do not have a single textbook." Since few African countries offer free public schooling, many parents can't afford to give their kids an education and most need them to help contribute to the family income as early as possible.
It brought tears to my eyes for several reasons.
In stark contrast to the errors in "Off the Map," the situation the article described is exactly the type of everyday reality I am surrounded by here in Ghana.
I tore my eyes away from the words to glance out the window at Worfa's new school, which opened for its first day of classes today. I could hear him cheerfully teaching an English lesson to his students, most of whom are my little Meerkat neighbors. He reduced the registration fee to 5 cedis as an "Easter present," but I have a sneaking suspicion that it was really because the original 7 cedi fee was still too high for some families.
Here I was reading about the woes of Africa, and literally all I had to do was look up to see someone actively working to fix those very problems.
Maybe sometimes it's good to experience media about developing countries while I'm still in one after all. In America, I can read about the poor orphans an ocean away and feel sorry for them. In Ghana, I can walk out my front door and do something.

If you've done everything you can to put things right on that day, you get so tired that you have to sleep. There is so much positive.
If you dwell just on the bad things, you become useless."
~ Jane Goodall

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