Friday, February 25, 2011

David's First Day of School

(Joseph, Alfred, George and David in uniform at Il Polei Primary School)

When I first started sending kids to school and decided that it was something I wanted to continue doing, I became worried that I might not be able to find the right kids who really wanted to go. One of the tactics I used was to have the kids who were already in school recruit other kids that they knew couldn’t afford to go to school, and really wanted to.

David is my first student that was recruited by other students. Alfred and his brother Joseph came to me one day and said that they knew a boy who was really smart and could not afford to go to school. David had been at the same detention center as Joseph (although in a different grade). I said great, and not thinking much of it, invited him to one of our study sessions.

In the study session I was honestly not very impressed. Later I realized that I was kind of to blame because we ended up studying in a place that had a TV on. Kind of stupid I know, but there aren’t a lot of places in town that will allow a study group of street children. David ended up watching TV over his book for most of the study session, and I decided that he wasn’t a good fit for what I was trying to do.

Weeks went by and I was working hard trying to find a place in a school for George and Joseph. I didn’t even consider trying to convince a school to let David in, since he obviously didn’t want it that badly. He came to me day after day and asked about going to school. I told him that he didn’t seem very serious in his study session. He then started coming to town and showing me the work he had been doing in his notebook that I had given him (I found that giving the boys study guides was a cheap way of figuring out who is interested and who isn’t). He had done a good deal of work and done it well. A week later he came to me with his report card from the detention center. He was ranked number one in his class for the majority of his time there (and though both the competition and quality of education were suspect it still said a lot about his drive for education).

This document changed everything and it was easy to convince the principal of Il Polei Primary to let him attend just by showing his marks.

This is the second of four videos that the ActionAid volunteers made. The group spent the day with David and myself, visiting his home and bringing him up to Il Polei for his first day of school. Their video is aptly named: David’s first day of school. Please again, remember that these are amateur videos that were edited in a matter of hours. The sound on the video isn’t the best, but try to listen carefully to what these boys say. From David saying he is glad that he no longer has to eat “dust bin food” to Alfred saying that he has proved street boys are clever, this video captures a wide range of the ups and downs of poverty stricken youth.

I would like to give a special thanks to Amanda Brinkloev, Emilie Bak, Catherine Jesting and Signe Anderson (pictured above with the boys) for making an amazing video, also Il Polei Primary School!


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  2. Matt this is amazing. So happy for all the boys...
    They are such an inspiration to me. I miss them.

    Love the videos and photos.


  3. Hi Matt,
    This is great. Heard about the wonderful work you are doing through a friend. Would love to help educate a kid or two and perhaps get the word out to my pals to see if they would be interested in doing the same.


  4. @Johnmark- Thank you so much! That is great news. Please spread the word. Im hoping to have a website up soon. Ill keep you updated. Matt