12 August 09
As several of the teachers attending this week’s workshops are commuting to Utimishi Academy rather than boarding here, the late afternoon workshops are optional.
Add that to the fact that subject-specific offerings run concurrently with sessions in the computer lab, and it’s easy to imagine attendance in a session on creative writing at 4:30 in the afternoon might be a bit low.
Such was the case for Moses’ session Wednesday.
Determined to make certain Moses had a full house, Silvia and I strongly encouraged the boys who remain here at school during break to join us for the session.
It was a thing of beauty. Teachers and students blended together to a crowd of learners.
Moses rolled through concrete and abstract wording, death by adjectives, vivid imagery and on into poetry.
It was when he asked the students to create their own poems that a certain hitch was thrown into his giddy-up.
Alex, a boy in Form 4 raised his hand.
“Because I am used to the Kenyan way of doing things,” he began, “is this for examination purposes? Or, is it for enjoyment purposes?”
I’ve written and thought quite a bit lately about the exam-centered nature of the Kenyan educational system, but it wasn’t until Alex’s question that its true effects hit home.
Here we were, talking of poetry and creation and beauty (Moses had begun the lesson by writing “Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life,” on the board) and Alex wants to know if this will be on the test.
Moses rolled with it, though, telling Alex that being able to understand and create poetry will surely serve him when he’s asked about literature in a more formal setting.
Still, that Alex was torn between his natural creativity and curiosity and his perceived need to regurgitated what he receives in school speaks volumes.
I worried he hadn’t taken Moses’ words to heart until the end of the session when Moses asked if the participants wanted to share what they had written.
Alex volunteered first:
Across the Indian Ocean,
Lapses of the reimental blue waves against equatorial gold shore,
Grits of sand like smithereens,
Mother Nature at her uttermost,
Golden field rays with rich viramin,
Sweet sunny weather;
A Faira fisher man rows, rows away from shore,
Boar moving mermaidously.
The white-capped wadawidan drums of goatskin fill the ambience.
Choirs of angels on earth, with beat alone.
A spotted swordfish cannabar, peony and violet essence.
The African Coast, home.
In the deep vaults of my mind.
I think things might be ok here.