Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Principal's Return from "A Different World"

At the beginning of this week, Mr. Kamati, the principal of my school, returned after a month-long trip to China. Mr. Kamati was selected as one of two Namibian principals to go to a training with principals from all over Africa. It was quite an honor to be chosen for this experience.
I have been looking forward to meeting him since I got here, and to hear about his experience abroad. It was fascinating to hear about his time in China.

Mr. Kamati had never left Namibia, and had never been on an airplane. Can you imagine leaving your home for the first time (in your 30's) and traveling to (of all places) China?
He shared with the learners at morning devotion on Monday that he had "Been to a different world."

One of the most touching aspects of his retelling of the trip began with a welcome to the new face in the room (me). He shared with the other teachers how important it is to learn from me while I'm here. He discussed the shame he felt not knowing about computers in China. He talked about how far behind Namibia is with technology, and that the teachers must utilize me as best as they can in my remaining weeks here. It was encouraging to hear this message, but it also saddened me at the same time. I thought of the embarrassment he probably felt around colleagues who knew more about the basic functions of the computer, and it fueled my lessons for the day to work toward my learners not having to endure the same embarrassment and shame due to lack of computer knowledge.

Later that day, Mr. Kamati came to check in with me in the lab. We talked about my lessons so far, the learners, the teachers, and just general conversation about Okahao and Namibia. I offered to get him up to speed with some one-on-one lessons in my remaining weeks. He was excited about this idea, and began asking me some questions. Now that the Internet is working, we were able to access his email, for the very first time. Someone had helped him set up an account in China, and he was expecting a reference letter from a colleague at the university where the training took place. There aren't words to explain the excitement of helping someone check and receive an email for the first time! He was so happy to receive his letter and have the ability to send a message immediately to thank the colleague and wish them well. It is amazing that basic understanding I take for granted can be so useful to someone without knowledge of computers and the Internet.

As many of us receive more emails than we want in a day, it can be hard to relate to this excitement. However, it made me really appreciate the brilliance of such an overlooked technology in my daily life. It is incredible, when you really think about it, that you can send messages from anywhere, at any time, with very little effort. I am learning to be grateful for computers and the Internet and all the ways they help to keep us connected to those that we love.

1 comment:

  1. Really enjoying reading this Dana--I would not have known what a great descriptive writer you are if I had not seen this blog. I am sure it is hard to find time, but please know it is appreciated and makes me appreciate my life and all the conveniences so much. I've been thinking about development work a lot lately because I've been reading Half the Sky and listening to some interesting radio. (Remind me to share a few Planet Money and This America Life podcasts about Jamaica and Haiti if you are interested). It is so great that you can see how your transfer of skills and knowledge can directly benefit the individuals and the community for years to come--truly capacity building work! I'd to hear more about the people you are meeting the culture--so interesting! Thanks for sharing.