The Day of the African Child, Week 4

7 07 2012

The Day of the African Child was on June 16th (which also happens to be Kelly’s birthday!). We went to Madiany, a nearby town, for a festival celebrating the theme “Disability is not inability.” In honor of this theme, it took place on the shared grounds of Madiany’s school for children with special needs, the primary school, and the secondary school. The Mama na Dada staff had been preparing the children for this day since before we got here, so it was a big deal for everyone in the compound. The staff and the daycare children spent the day before practicing their performances and preparing a packed lunch, and the next morning, we were all ready for the kids’ big day. The atmosphere was filled with an excited buzz as the teachers called role, and the children, wearing matching Mama na Dada t-shirts over their school uniforms, filled in amatatu (bus-van-type vehicle). The atmosphere was reminiscent of the excitement I felt in the mornings before field trips in elementary school, when we were all anticipating a new experience, something beyond our classroom routine.

We were one of the first groups to arrive at the school grounds, and we were welcomed by the host students helping us unload our chairs and children. Throughout the next hour or so, groups of children from primary schools, secondary schools, and other programs filled in the field. One group arrived in style, on the back of a huge tractor. Soon, the children gathered for a processional march coming back into the field, carrying a large banner stating in bold lettering “Day of the African Child.” Then after some introductory remarks and speeches, each group of children came up and performed songs, poems, skits, and dances, often echoing the theme. Our Mama na Dada children recited a poem in unison, explaining that disability is not inability, and then performed a dance, which I think depicted the cycle of life. Another group of primary school students recited a poem about a small child trying to understand her mother’s pregnancy, and an older group of students performed a skit with a very expressive lead actor (I’m convinced he’ll be on Kenyan TV one day!). Some groups also sang, and other groups peformed dances in traditional Luo costumes. All in all, we were very impressed by all the effort and coordination the students and their teachers invested in these performances, and rather than trying to describe the performances, I’ll post some photos.

The festival concluded with speeches, often encouraging parents to accept their disabled children and expose them to the outside world. One such speech really stood out to me, the speaker of which was a young girl in a wheelchair who had been watching the performances from the front row. Her point elaborated on the theme “Disability is not inability,” emphasizing that disability is different ability, given time and space. From my experience, across all cultures, those who are disabled in one way often develop other talents and abilities as a result of lacking that ability, so her message rang very true in my ears.

I tried to attach pictures of some of the performances, but again, the image uploader is not cooperating.

Saira

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