Aside from academics, one of the tasks of an international school is to provide social activities for the student body. In a city where there are few activities for middle and high schoolers, after school activities, sports teams and movie nights are some of the options the International School of Ouagadougou provides for its student body. Along with those activities, this week, ISO held spirit week, put on a talent show and hosted SOFANWET – Softball fanatics weekend tournament.
Six teams traveled from Niamey to compete with five local teams this past weekend. Both Jeremiah and Bruce played on separate teams. While most of the teams are dominated by American and Canadian players, one of the best teams has mainly Burkinabe players who have been playing softball for several years now. They are quite good and getting better all the time. Their strength is their ability to run around the bases like they were running the 100 yard dash! Bruce’s team was made up of folks who play for fun (as opposed to the competitive teams who play to win!) with some of the players recruited at the last-minute. They did not distinguish themselves. Jeremiah is part of the ISO school team, the Turtles (the school’s mascot because there are two giant turtles who live on the campus). They did very well as one of the youngest teams – all the players are in grades six to eight – beating the Peace Corps team and coming in third place. They lost to a team of men, some of them marines, who were able to hit the ball out of the park too many times. If these middle schoolers continue to play together for a few more years they will be a force to contend with!
The week before the softball tournament was spirit week at school. All the students from grades 6 to 12 were divided into teams and on Friday they competed in games designed to build team relations rather than test athletic skills. It was a good way for the students from different grades to interact. On Thursday afternoon at the talent show, each team presented a team cheer and a team mascot. Jeremiah’s team, the red team, chose “red bull” as their mascot. Deborah’s team chose the “blue troll”!
The talent show was a mix of singing, dancing and instrumental talents. The student body was very supportive, cheering on all the performers whether they were good or mediocre. There were no mocking laughs, just gasps of pleasure or more enthusiastic applause for the better performers. One of the most interesting acts was a combination of a Russian rapper and a Taiwanese rapper. Their act alternated between Russian and Chinese rap, transitioning from one language to the other without losing a beat. This is one of the things I love about international schools: where else could two students from such vastly different cultures and languages join on stage in a duo act? I continue to marvel at how our children are being exposed to people from around the world, learning to understand and accept differences as normal.
Small communities are like families: everyone knows the rules – although sometimes they have to be spelled out – and problems are ironed out as they arise by face to face encounters. When communities grow, however, it becomes important to change from an informal to a formal structure with written understandings and a set procedure for dealing with issues when they arise. It is no longer possible to settle problems face to face or to make every decision by group discussion. The community delegates authority and entrusts smaller decisions to that authority. Only major decisions are settled in a group-wide meeting.
The Mennonite Church of Ouagadougou is moving into the phase of a more structured community life. In December the church council met to begin writing by-laws for the congregation. The by-laws stipulate who can be a member, the procedure for electing the council members and the length of term, and so forth. When the by-laws are written and approved by the council, the congregation will hold an assembly to study and adopt the by-laws.
Along with the church by-laws, the student hostel (FEMO) is also beginning the process of creating written guidelines. When the hostel began, there were less than ten students in residence. As preparations are being made to move into permanent housing that can hold up to thirty students, it is necessary to provide some continuity and structure to that living environment as well. Sometime the students remember the purpose that the hostel serves, but inthe bustle of university life it is easy to loose sight of the original vision. One of the roles of a written document is to ensure that the students understand and stay engaged with the vision of FEMO.
It has been a good experience to work on these projects with other members of the congregation. In particular, it has been exciting to see students who have studied law serve the church with their gifts. Once again, we marvel at the wealth of talent in the young adults who makeup the congregation.
Work on the new FEMO site continues
The property that the congregation purchased to house the student hostel and the church meeting-place is under construction. Since January, much has changed. The bricklayer is building a large meeting room and an additional bedroom. The next task will be to build some additional bathrooms. We hope that the students will be able to move into their new location in March.
Please pray with us:
- Thank God for good food to eat. Many people wonder whether we miss certain foods from home. In our case, most of our daily foods are available here. Furthermore, there are many delights which we enjoy, such as fresh strawberries in February! A vendor comes to our door with fresh fruits and vegetables (including broccoli whichwas not ava ilable in Cotonou). A woman down the street bakes us fresh whole-wheat bread each week. We have found a Widow’s Co-op that makes great peanut butter (the 100% p eanuts kind!). We are grateful for our daily bread.
- Thank God for health. Nancy caught a nasty bout of something just after finishing the 1 for 50 training and has spent a week feeling rundown. With the right medicines, however, she is beginning to get back on her feet. Deborah was also ill with a bad cold/sore throat and then pink eye. She too is now better. Continue to pray for good health for all of us.
- Pray for the FEMO students and their studies. One of the biggest challenges they face is the lack of adequate infrastructure. They are often taught in large classrooms holding over 1000 students; the small number of professors cannot possibly know their students by name. Often the students are left to muddle through on their own. When an injustice occurs, the students have almost no recourse. Pray that the students can succeed in this unfriendly environment. Pray too for reform at all levels of education in Burkina Faso. An uneducated population is ill-equipped to help the nation develop and progress.
- Pray for the school where Jeremiah and Deborah attend, the International School of Ouagadougou. As is often the case with international schools, there will be a high turnover of staff as many are leaving at the end of this academic year. Pray for the hiring process which is going on right now. Pray for teachers (both here and in North America) who care about their students and who can make a positive difference in the lives of their students.