Friday, May 23, 2008

May 21, 2008

Sat through my first Botswana class today and nearly collapsed of boredom. The African school child is truly an amazing character.

How does sperm fertilize the egg?
What happens to a girls body when she becomes pregnant?
What are the risks associated with teenage pregnancy?
What is the best way to avoid teenage pregnancy?

A room full of forty 12 year olds sit in front of me chanting answers in unison while sneaking peaks over their shoulders to check out the visiting lkgoa (literally, “white vomit of the sea”)

I sneak smiles back at them and feign attention by flipping vigorously through the little green book, dense with English paragraphs and anatomy pictures. I make a concerted effort to look engrossed in the monotonous text of “Growing Up and Responsible Living”.

Form 1 has Guidance and Counseling sessions one time each week for 40 minutes. The session allows them to regurgitate facts on teen pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, alcohol abuse, contraception, anatomy and sexuality. I am impressed by their knowledge and awed by their ability to retain these dry details.

These children face an average life expectancy of 33, due mainly to HIV/AIDS.
Predicted statistics for 2010 show the average life expectancy rate dropping to just 29.
The Botswana government provides free counseling, testing and ARVs medicine to every citizen of the country.
The Bostwana government also provides 15 Peace Corps volunteers to pilot the new Lifeskills program.

Chances are I’ll go back to the States with a handful of success stories and a suitcase of frustrations and very little sense of the effectiveness of my work. I’ll train the 30 new Lifeskills volunteers in 2009 and the 45 in 2010 and then head home to hold my breath for the next decade and pray for infection rates to drop and life expectancy rates to rise. Quite literally, I’ll pray for my students to live.

I look up from the little green book and catch the eye of a girl in the front row. We smile at each other while the responses chant on
and I am impatient to know her.

1 comment:

Mike Chagnon said...

Hi Jess,

Just wanted to let you know that Greg, Pete, and I miss you and love you very much. I love reading your blog. What a great idea!