My name is Kawuki Micheal, 40years old and a teacher at Luigi Giussani High School (LGHS) since 2010. I was asked to become the deputy headteacher that same year of 2010 and in 2014 I became the headteacher. Being a teacher here made me discover who I am and the meaning of work. I came to realize that I am not simply Kawuki but behind this face, there is Someone greater and this is what makes me who I am, for this I am able to look at my students beyond the subjects I teach them, to look at them as human beings who desire to be happy and loved like me. We are all the same with the same needs but the only difference is that I am an adult in front of them.
Last year, in 2020 March when the lockdown was imposed and it was said that schools should close for twenty-one days, both the teachers and students were happy because we thought it was going to be an opportunity to have a small vacation. But those three weeks turned out to be dark because of the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus. After those three weeks, the same amount of time for the lockdown was added as well. People were losing their jobs, the living conditions at home worsened, more people were dying around the world and for students, hopes of schools being opened was minimal. One day, Seve (educational advisor at LGHS) called proposing a meeting with the Headteacher’s council (HTC) that is composed of five members. Public transport was closed so we used to have these meetings through google meet. It was through these meetings that we got hope to see the faces of one another. I realised that it is not easy to come out of a dark moment without the other, I remain rotating around it. But with someone else, he/ she can help me point in the direction where the light is. For us, this person was Seve, we followed him, without following, I am very limited. Through these HTC meetings, we decided to reach all the teachers asking them to prepare self-s
tudy materials. By April, all teachers were available to make the materials ready not simply to make the students busy but to enable them to learn even from home. We started giving out this work in May. Transport was paralysed at that moment so some of the places had become far especially Naguru. But for me, the distance didn’t matter, what mattered were the students who had spent months without studying. I accepted that what I was doing was no longer simply a job that earned me money but a vocation, I realised it was my call to help these young people, to bring out who exactly they are. After some months of giving out the materials, we realised that we need to see the faces of our students and to find out how they are doing. We were worried about the boys and girls but especially the girls who were at a high risk of getting pregnant. They were also tired of getting the work and they were losing hope. As the HTC team, we decided to go to the homes of each one of them. They were very happy to see us. Through our faces, they regained hope. Them looking at our faces, that gaze that loved them was an opportunity for them to come back to themselves but also for us to come back to ourselves. We wanted them to know that they are not alone though they were not coming to school, that we were thinking about them and everything we were doing was for them though also for us. The environment where the students live is not very conducive, they can easily be cheated or confused by some people in it. But with our encounter with them, they managed to live through what they faced with hope. The school has now started for some classes and we are glad that we haven’t gotten any cases of pregnancies. We are also happy that for the classes at school, almost all of them are back which is an achievement for us considering the high levels of drop outs country wide. When the students got back, we could vividly tell that they were scared because of the impacts of the virus and the life that had changed. The senior fours had to do exams in four months’ time and yet they had a lot to do. They were not used to waking up early in the morning anymore. It would be useless to ask them where we stopped with the learning ten months ago. With the fear they had, they were not going to be able to learn anything. The first thing we did was to start by having dialogues with them about life, how they faced COVID-19 and the lockdown and the experiences they have had. We provoked them to ask questions about life. For us, this was a starting point to help them adapt to the system of school they had not been in for many months. With the information, we were getting from them was one way to know where to start from, how to help them start because they were not the same anymore. The important thing was to listen to them and help them start. There is a big difference between education and teaching. Teaching is within education. In education, I handle the whole person, am not going to give my own idea to the student but am going to try to bring out what is within the student. You have to be fully involved and listen. If I instead go to teach, I leave out the biggest aspect of the student. The teachers were supposed to be ready to face the students. We were not idle during the lockdown period, we were having training and workshops which kept us refreshed. If we were not ready, it means we were not going to be able to handle the students.
For me, this lockdown period taught me that in following, you make no mistake. Follow a person who has that gaze, who already realised this gaze. Most importantly, we don’t give hope but looking at particular faces, hope comes back again.
Compiled by Adoch Mary Clare