5. WALKING TO KIGALI SCHOOL
On Friday I woke up early and decided to take a walk to find a coffee and a newspaper, then return to the guest house later for breakfast. It was shortly after 7am when I set out, and I'd been walking only about five minutes when a little girl - about eight years old - fell in step beside me. She was carrying by the handle a silver-coloured lunch pail - a tall canister-like shape.
She said "bonjour" to which I replied "bonjour" and she carried on walking beside me, asking if I would give her a "bon bon" which I knew to be the french word for "candy". But regrettably I didn't have any candy at all in my purse although last year when I came to Rwanda I had brought candy. This year I had brought school supplies instead, but I didn't have any of those on me either.
However, we were approaching the Kigali Business Center (KBC to the locals) which is a kind of strip mall along the road near a major roundabout and she implied that she wanted me to buy her "bon bon" there.
But it being so early in the morning I didn't want to give her candy and said instead that I would get her something to eat for breakfast. She said "no", she wanted "bon bon" to which I said "no bon bon".
I asked her (in my very poor french) if she was going to school and she said that she was and so I told her that I would like to walk with her to school. So we walked on past the KBC and continued on down the road.
She asked me again for "bon bon" to which I replied that I would like to see what was in her lunch pail. So we stopped and she bent down and opened the lunch pail which consisted of three or four levels of interlocking bowls, all held together by the sides of the handle, and requiring putting back together in proper order - like a puzzle - after taking them apart. But, aside from it being a very interesting lunch pail, it was empty - no food in any of the bowls.
By this time we were attracting some curiosity from people walking by and a man in long white robes stopped to help us put the lunch pail back together. Then he carried on walking with us and we talked - in my poor french and his poor english - about his job as a gardener landscaping people's homes. He walked with us all the way to the little girl's school which was quite a way off the main road and into a suburban area with homes behind hedges and walls. At one point we passed a school - but that wasn't the one (it being a high school) - and carried on down a hill and through a back road until finally we came to another school next to a sign saying "Eglise Pentacostal" which turned out to be Kimihurura Primary. The little girl (after pointing out where I could find the teachers) ran ahead into the schoolyard as class had already started. Later I went to search her out so I could take her photo - she being the little angel who had led the way:
I was taken by a teacher - who stepped out of her classroom to assist me - to the principal's office where there would be someone who could speak English. I explained to the teachers who came to my assistance that I was visiting from Canada and had brought school supplies with me to give to some schools for distribution to children whose parents were having problems paying school fees, and that I would like to give some to this school because the little girl had brought me here, otherwise I would never have found it.
So, to make a long story short, the principal and the teachers welcomed the idea and two teachers accompanied me back to my guest house (we took a taxi) to pick up the school supplies:
Then we took the taxi back to the school and when we got there it was recess and pandemonium broke out when the children saw us take the box out of the trunk:
Somehow they knew there would be something in there for them. Then recess was over and the children went back into their classrooms and the teachers and I took the box into the office, where the soccer ball was inflated and the school supplies laid out for distribution.
It was organized in such a way that a few needy children from each classroom were chosen so that it would be as fair as possible. There were not enough school supplies for everyone to receive, this being a school of many classrooms and several hundreds of children. They were all amazingly well-behaved and polite and it was a joy to see them happy with their new pencils, paper, crayons, scribblers, compass sets etc.
Before leaving the school - in the taxi in which I'd come - I visited a couple of classrooms from which two orphans were chosen to receive pencil crayons, something that would help brighten up their day.
I was overwhelmed with awe at the wonderful way the children responded to their teachers - behaving so respectfully toward them and saying to me in chorus "Good Morning Madame". It made traveling the thousands of miles to the thousands of hills worth every inch of the way.
(As mentioned earlier, I sought out the little girl who had brought me to the school and gave her a hug and a couple thousand francs - enough to buy "bon bons" to her heart's content.)
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