-Written by Elizabeth Onekalit
His father approached Andrew, one of the educators in the village of Latodore. “What is this you are teaching my children?” his tone, positive.
Later on in the term, another father was excited to share with the educators, “My son, he was reading the bible and I thought he was making it up, so I went behind him to see and he really was reading!”
To a person who comes from a society where education is just a given, these stories may not seem out of the ordinary, so, I ask of you, take a trip with me…
We had already been in the van for an hour. The road to Kitgum newly paved, offering us a pleasant ride. After a stop along the way, to stretch our legs and greet friends, we headed off on a dirt road to the village of Latodore.
The contrast of the bright blue sky against the green of the grass provided distraction from the bumps and ruts along the red dirt road. We sped past grass-thatched huts, women carrying baskets on their heads and men on bicycles as we approached the Village Learning Center an hour and a half later.
We pulled in along a foot path and parked near a large tree offering shade. Some of the children were outside, it seemed they were observing, not us, but the two small classrooms holding pupils and educators inside.
Alas, we had arrived. We had arrived to a place that did not exist a few short years ago. We had arrived to children who had never had an education. We had arrived to a place where three years ago the language was a mix of Acholi, Okuti and Karamajong.
When the Village Learning Center first started, progress was brought to a halt because there were too many languages spoken. The educators felt defeated and knew they needed to conquer the issue of language. They decided to take the first year and solely teach the pupils the Acholi language, making it easier for them to learn while maintaining a mother tongue from the area. Once the pupils conquered Acholi, they began to learn in English.
After we arrived, a number of the children were asked to read for us and read they did. Once they had all had their turn reading in English, one of the children read while another translated in Acholi!
(Let us pause to remind ourselves that these six to eleven year old children had never been educated.)
There aren’t fancy buildings that house the children and school uniforms aren’t a requirement, because what is important, is that a child who couldn’t tell his “A” from his “B” is now reading entire books, and reading them well.
For years, the village has been living a life of survival but now a seed has been planted and the children of Latodore, along with their families, are reaping the harvest of education and a biblical foundation.