The morning is cold and windy. Its hard to tell if the thick air is because of rain, smoke, mist or volcanic ash, likely a combination of all. The wind whips across the ridges, the dense green jungle thrashing wildly, it’s the kind of weather in which you want to be somewhere curled up in bed, somewhere dry, warm and safe, but it is a school day and so we pull ourselves out of bed and head over to class.
The teachers are huddled in the staff room ‘its another cyclone’ one tells me, grinning widely at the shocked response on my face and quickly reassuring ‘Its okay, its normal here’.
The remedial English class we teach has less students than normal, the other kids tell us that it takes longer to walk to school because of the extreme weather. Today’s lesson involves some team challenge activities and the lesson is in full excitable swing when Napiapen walks in.Napiapen is a bright 12 year old lad, the kind of student that can always be relied on to have a sensible answer to the questions. His parents have no source of income and because of the heavy volcanic ash continually destroying their crops they struggle to get enough food to live by, they have no spare money for things like school fees.
He lives a few kilometres from the school and it has taken him over an hour to make his way here today. The door bangs open behind him and I can see he is soaked to the skin. However, his personal discomfort doesn’t seem to bother him, he is more concerned with the fact he is late to class. Quickly joining a group, it doesn’t take him long to be racing up to the blackboard to stick the correct answers on the board.
For Napiapen, this school is a life changer.
- This school means a place to apply his keen intelligence and learn new things every day.
- This school is a safe, dry, warm and protected place to be in rain and storms.
- This school is a full belly of nutritious lunch every day.
- This school is a community.
- This school is a place of friendship.
- This school is a place he can learn about God.
Tabby R. March 2018