Parent Teacher Meetings...African Style

There are so many things that I would like to focus this entry on, but one stands out amongst the rest.  I must first apologize for the delay, I have been dealing with the local nightmare known as the Government and immigration…but I won’t bore you with all of that! 

Adam and I broke out a recent donation, a telescope and introduced our P3 children to that for the first time.  None of the children had ever seen something like this before and neither had most of the teachers.  They were amazed and were a bit intimidated at first, but they were even more amazed after looking through it!  Each child stepped up on a chair and looked through to find me hundreds of feet away holding a sign saying “I see you!”  I could see when they finally recognized me because they would excitedly wave and the read the sign to Adam who was helping them with the telescope.  Adam said that they would all then try to greet me as if I was actually close to them.  You can see some pictures here and read a bit from our volunteer Adam! Adam's Blog

The children are doing great which is of course the best news possible, but the thing that is most on my mind is our school meeting.  We held a school meeting on Wednesday and had been talking about if for at least a month.  With announcements daily to the children, contacting the community and announcements in church we were excited for the opportunity to speak directly to the parents and guardians for the children.  It was at 9 a.m. on Wednesday which is actually the ideal time and day here because the parents could arrive early and still have time to work after and take care of their homes.  So Fr. Kitali, Mama Shayo, Madam Gonda and I all anxiously awaited the parents.  At 9 a.m. we had 1 parent and by 9:05 we had a total of 4.  One big difference of “time” here is that people are always late, all the time, to everything.  In fact I was at a wedding one time that started an hour and a half late because they were waiting for people and no one even batted an eye.  So together myself, the teachers and Fr. Kitali waited, for an hour until we couldn’t wait any longer.  We had less than 50 parents or guardians at that point, but we had waited long enough.  

On our end the meeting went well; we discussed school policies, expectations and most importantly what we needed the parents to do at home.  We have been noticing a disconcerting trend of our children not being cared for at home. Most notably they were coming to school dirty, late and having not completed any homework.  This happens all the time, but lately it seemed to be getting worse.  We want the parents to be invested in their children and value them unfortunately we are fighting an uphill battle.  With 116 pupils, I was certainly expecting more than 50 adults to show up to a meeting set at their desired time (especially considering we waited for an hour for them to show up).  Not surprisingly the parents that we need most to show more involvement in their children did not even bother to attend the meeting.  It is a sad truth that children are often not valued here nor cared for.  That includes our children at Stella Maris that we all love so much too.  However on a day that could have been a complete disappointment there was one positive outcome.  The adults that did show up were frustrated as well.  They spoke out about people showing up late (kind of awkward because they were forced to sit in the front closest to us, the 4 Stella Maris representatives) but most of all they were upset at their neighbors and friends that didn’t bother to show up.  They see the other children walking to school dirty and know that others haven’t done anything for the children in their care.  The word that Mama Shayo always uses is "contribute" and it is a struggle to get the parents or guardians to contribute to their children.  Our only hope of reaching these adults now is through the community and my prayer is that it mobilizes them to begin to do more for the children.  Hopefully the glares and disappointment of their neighbors will be enough to urge them forward.

We are in an incredible position here to do something tremendous for this community and these children.  I am also reminded of how blessed we are in our communities especially our local communities such as St. Joseph that we have such strong parents that care about our school.  You can not realize how much a parent does for a child until you see a child without one.  I see the evidence of what not having loving parents does every day, and also the incredible change in confidence and body language a smile and a warm greeting does for these children.  Our role at school is big, but not big enough.  Our impact is limited by the simple fact we have to send the children home everyday.  Please keep these families in your as we hope they can find room in their lives and hearts for their children.  We know that at least for 8 hours a day we provide them with a safe haven and also act as an example of what love is.  I just want to say thank you to my parents and all of you parents that do so much for their children.  I miss very much the impromptu parent teacher conferences, countless emails, calls and all of you parents that kept me late at school.  You are welcome here anytime, many of our children need you.


  1. Hi My Sweet Terry!
    I miss you sooooo much my not forgotten son! I am sorry for not writing sooner but I thought if I put you in the back of my heart the ache of missing you wouldn't be so bad. I thought if I hid your memories in the back of my mind- it wouldn't be so painful cuz the memories were tucked away in a safe place. But, love has a funny way of never forgetting how special someone is. I really thought if I only muttered your name on occasion to John the hurt I still carry about your absence would subside- boy was I wrong. I heard our song, and fell to pieces - remember the pieces of my heart that just couldn't let you go- Sorry I am such a baby and miss you too much. Sorry if I let you down- I will do better and I will honor our special "mom / son" relationship by letting of the fact that you are so far away and embracing the love I have for you. Seeing you w/ the children make my heart soar cuz I know you are truly where you need to be, truly impacting the lives of others who need you from head to toe. I'm sorry for being a wimp, Terry- Just know you are thought about and praised every day from John and I . It's funny how my heart soars for your happiness seeing you w/ your beautiful children, yet it will always ache from missing your beautiful spirit!
    God danced the day you were born, and we all rejoice in the wonder you bring to your students and the love you left us.
    Missing you more than you could know,
    Your second mom who was hoping we were just playing hide and seek and you were just hiding really far away. You know what I mean! I apologize for my selfishness, Terry! Please know you are missed, loved and cherished!
    So much admiration and love, Sharon

  2. I miss you too Sharon! Come out and see me please!! You are the best and you are my example I follow in the classroom every day. Nobody taught me more about being a teacher than you. Do not worry, I am glad you said hi and know that I miss you too! I love you and please tell everyone I miss and love them. Be sure to watch out for all my children at St. Joseph and tell them I said "mambo"! Don't play hide and seek anymore ok! Lots of love, Terry.

  3. Terry, as I am crying now, if you could see into my heart, you would see a BIG HUG for you, my son, I miss you more than words can say but reading your stories brings me much enlightenment. I'll say "mambo" to all of your friends. Life with you in it is truly magnificent. Thanks for blessing us with your majestic love and self!
    Your Number 1 fan,