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La Classe Des Beliers

 (The Class of Sheep)

So, because the project for which I came to Cote d’ivoire runs just on Wednesdays and Saturdays, my partner and I volunteered to assist the teachers in a Pre-school in Cocody, every other day of the week.

There are six classes, so we get to work in about 4 of them before we leave for Nigeria. That is, one class per week. This week, I worked in the Beliers classe; a class of about 27 kids ranging from roughly 5-7 years.

Some of the kids made an impression on me.

Melvin.

You were the very first child who caught my eyes when I entered the class. You were everywhere in the class but really nowhere in particular. You were doing everything but the class activities. You had no shoes on and you kept running round the class and laughing. I knew you were peculiar, but I just could not place it. It wasn’t until I asked you ‘Comment tu t’appelle’ like 4 times as you just kept laughing and the teacher said; ‘il ne parle pas’ that I knew that you could not speak. The big irony is that you’re like the class’s loudest and happiest child. You’re also a pretty decent drummer. I mean; if you can’t sing with them, drum for them right? From you I’ve learnt that it’s okay to be different. And that being different is not an excuse to be less happy or confident.

Zohoré

If I get 100CFA for everytime I’ve said your name, I’d probably be a millionaire. ‘Zohoré, regard ici’, ‘Zohoré dessine comme sa’ ‘Zohoré! this… Zohoré that’ . And if you had 100CFA for every time you looked at me with the cutest and most innocent eyes and said, ‘Oui Maîtresse?’ you’d also be a millionaire. And we’d both be millionaires and we’d live happily ever after. Nah, but seriously, I really like you because you’re teachable but Zohoré, you have to work… a lot, on your attention span. From you, I have learnt that being cute might probably get you out of trouble…

But Zohoré, Just. Focus. You know it…

Salam

Whoever said a one-eyed man can’t be king has not met you. With your blue rocket-shaped eye-patch, you have time after time and activity after activity proven that you’re the boss of schoolwork. Maybe you’re not the smartest, but you catch on the fastest. You’re a very sharp kid and the dream of every teacher. They’d only have to show you what to do and next thing; we’re all saying ‘Bingo Salam!’ You’re an amazing child, however you’d have to stop being a little bully. In case you’ve not noticed, all the kids want to actually play with you, don’t make them always have to report you. But from you, I’ve learnt that the eyes of the mind are far greater than the physical eyes.

Anna

Anna… Anna; my candidate. I can boldly say that you’re one of the most intelligent students in the class. But it’s hard for people to see that because it takes you three times longer to do stuff your mates would do. And that’s really not a bad thing. Life is a race and we’re allowed to run at different paces. It’s only just important that you realize that you can be better and faster at stuff. From you, I’ve learnt that although slow and steady may not win the race, slow and steady does it better… and sometimes, that’s more important.

Nawel

Nawel; the model child. Never been beaten, never has come late, never has not gotten the idea of the class activity, never been in a fight, always saying the right things, never been disobedient, always using her ‘merci’ and ‘s’il vous plait’ and ‘pardon’, always bringing gifts for the teacher, always so neat, always just being Nawel. Nawel, thank you for making things easy for my life. I hardly have to sit with you and repeat one thing 10 times. A simple, ‘tres bien’ would make you smile and motivate you to finish on time. I hope you remain as gentle and sincere as you are. Thank you for being the ring leader in motivating the other to take my ‘twinkle twinkle little star’ seriously. From you, I learnt that you can be a good girl and a big girl at the same time.

Melyou

Even as I typed your name, I smiled. Like Melvin, you don’t talk. But no child in the class has made me smile like you. From the random kisses you steal when I’m unaware to the tight hugs you give me when no one’s looking, you were some sort of angelic encouragement to me and I’m grateful for that. You’ll do well in life. Just keep on dazzling people with your amazingly genuine smile. From you, I learnt that it’s okay to steal kisses… sometimes the ‘victim’ needs them.

Ange-Emmanuel

I’m just going to say this: you’re the cutest child in that class. And you have the most innocent face any child has ever had which is probably why most times your stubbornness is quickly forgiven. Keep being good Mambo. From you, I learnt that sometimes all it takes is two round eyes and well carved eyebrows.

Jonathan

Ah… Jonathan. I’ll just skip to my career advice to you. Look at working around law enforcement… be a lawyer… be a policeman… widen my scope of imagination… whatever… just enforce the law because you apparently love to. In a day, you report not less than 10 cases to me (90% of which I don’t even understand). You’re also the most mature male student in the class(but one of the tiniest). I would never ever forget your patience with me on my first day. You were basically my guide in doing stuff. Like in my head, it was ‘Does Jonathan look at me approvingly? Yes? Thank God’. Another thing that really struck me about you was that you have a mind of your own. You know what you want, you’re not afraid to ask for it and you’re not afraid of making mistakes. That’s very superb, but sometimes, you have to let yourself be taught. Re-learning and unlearning is important in this day and age. From you, I have learnt not to compromise.

Marie-Grace

Sit-up. Pay Attention. Know that you’re smart and stop limiting yourself. Did I mention that you should pay attention? Pay attention. From you, Marie-Grace, I’ve learnt to always ask questions when in doubt…

Abigaelle

You’re like a darker, taller, longer hair version of Nawel. But no, you’re not her. You’re Abigaelle. Beautiful, eager to learn, respectful and intelligent. You’re a good person and you should know that. I think, however, that you should work on your self-confidence a little bit more. From you, I’ve learnt to keep the right company…

Samuel Body

You’re apparently the class’s most handsome and I always had some kind of weird crush on you until the day I saw you (violently) crying and when I asked you what was wrong you said it was because you didn’t know what to do. I mean, that seemed deep, nice and interesting at first. But then I realized that you were referring to ‘drawing a house with your colored pen’. You’re easy to teach and that’s really good. I think you should learn to ask questions more. From you, I learnt not to hide my problems behind ‘fine girl’

Marc-Antoine

You just keep living the life of swag. That’s also what I learnt from you. And hey… sit up!

Moriel

Moriel, you really have to believe in yourself. The kids who are clueless and have not an idea on what to do ask fewer questions than you do. It’s good to ask questions but I think your question-asking stems from your lack of self-confidence. Most times (if not all) you know what to do; you just need confirmation and affirmation. Learn to believe in yourself, because you is smart… really smart. From you, I learnt not to always follow the crowd… sometimes, pause and ask questions.

Nissi

Nissi… Nissi. You’re a bright and teachable young lady who won’t let anyone get close. I fear that you would have esteem issues as regards your weight when you’re much older. Please don’t. You’re a very beautiful and healthy child. Don’t let anyone tell you less. Also, learn to talk to people. From you, I’ve learned that sometimes, you don’t got to say nothing.

Yaccine

You’ll be fine. And from you, I learned that mood swings come… and that’s fine.

Kékélys

I saved you for the last… because you were my best. I remember my first day in your class when I had loads of French thrown at me by kids whose voices are so tiny; I probably would not have heard them if they spoke English. I was almost running out of my mind when you called me and asked me one long question in French. I asked you to repeat yourself hoping I’d pick up some words I could understand. After your third repeat, I bent to your level, looked you in the eyes and said, ‘Listen, je ne parle pas francais bien. Je suis Anglophone. Je parle anglais beaucoup mais ma francais, n’est pas bien’.. and I think I said a bunch of other weird stuff. And you just kept smiling at this rambling Anglophone sister. After I let if off my chest, I was about to stand up when I heard you say (still smiling) ‘How are you?’ Thank you Kékélys… and I would miss your ever joyful and vibrant spirit. I don’t know why you did not show up in school for the last two days but I always looked at the door hoping you’d walk in. Thank you for showing enthusiasm in learning ‘Twinkle Little Star’. You’re one smartass and you’re amazing… I’m rambling. 🙂 But from you, I learnt that it’s sometimes okay to ramble.

I cannot possibly list all the students in Beliers; I mean, Hervé-Ange, Mikael, Jekiel, Oriel, etc etc… but they were/are amazing. I would miss them all. And although their wahala was on another level (I even fell sick) they are a bunch of the best children in the world!

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