Day 5: Visiting Three Schools and hundreds of Girls

I’d expected to go to one school today but in the end, we visited three.

We arrived at an empty secondary school by 10:00 and eventually found the headmaster who told us that the students had left for Easter vacation and only 5 girls were there for us to meet. After some discussion we agreed that he’d get 85 girls to return for a morning class next Tuesday and we’d make the long trek back to deliver our class and kits.

We’d noticed a primary school across the road and asked to be introduced by the secondary school principal. He happily walked us over and explained that we’d be happy to talk with the girls there. The class was made up of twelve, thirteen and fourteen-year-olds. Most of them claimed not to have started to menstruate yet and that’s perfect as far as I’m concerned. I wish we could explain menstruation long before a girl gets her first period, and then give her the necessary supplies to be ready and not afraid.

Teaching girls about their cycle.

Teaching girls about their cycle.

Our second school had some English speakers, so I was more helpful when teaching. The girls had great questions, wanted to be nurses, engineers, bank managers, and were cheerful and interested. They sang for us and hammed it up when we asked to take photos. This picture thing brings out the same in children all over the world. We were invited to see the dormitory and I asked to see the toilet. The dorm had three rooms; two bedrooms and a kitchen. the floors were dirt and the children slept 20 to a room on mats on the floor. The kitchen had one small window, a low ceiling and smelled of cooking smoke. The bathroom was made of grasses that had mostly fallen down providing no privacy and the toilets were small spaces with wooden doors and a hole in the floor. The only ventilation was some small holes up towards the ceiling.

These smiles say it all.

These smiles say it all.

The third school, which we didn’t find out about until our driver announced that we were late, was another hour down the bumpy, dirt road. The views all day were glorious. This is an amazingly beautiful country with some of the best skies I’ve ever seen.

It always takes a while for these girls to get over being shy about the topic of menstruation. We try to get them laughing which helps a lot and we usually leave with smiling happy girls surrounding us. 

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We saw the dormitory at this school too. It is a new building, but the wooden beds have no mattresses and the girls say they are scared at night to go to the toilets that are so far away. Six students stood up at the end of the session to read short papers about the challenges they face. Each asked us to help in some particular way. The most I could say was that I’d tell people about them. There is so much need here that it’s difficult to stay focused on our mission: to overcome barriers to menstruation.  There are just so many other barriers and challenges!

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We leave for Chituka tomorrow morning at 7:00. I wanted to leave earlier but we are too tired and it’s just not fair to everyone. I will try to get down to the sewing space early to pack us up and be ready for the trip. We return to Mtunthama on Monday.