Protests and peace

There was political instability a few weeks ago in my region of the country. Regarding that, here is my big, fat, US government-issued “no comment.” (Research #oromoprotests or #freezoneninebloggers if you’re interested in what was/is happening.) Regarding the way men with guns and rocks flying at protests affected my service, well, here you have it.

In teaching my 7th and 8th grade students spoken English this year, I’ve tried to diverge from the local standard modal of memorizing dialogues. I’ve tried to break away from having my students memorize anything at all. Feeble attempt it may be, I try to teach my students to think critically about where they come from and where they’re going. English language is just a vehicle for getting there.

That’s why, three Thursdays ago, when I had every student in my class role play what to do if someone attempted to drag them to a protest, I felt a little bit like a traitor. I want my students to think about what affects their lives and how they can make positive change in their communities. But more than that, I want them in their desks come Monday, searching for pencils in the bottom of their Teddy Afros book bags, begging me to hand them a piece of chalk so that they can write the date on the board.

There were no protests in my town. But all over our region, students shed blood for their country. I was scared that such sacrifice might include the blood of middle schoolers with buck teeth in their mouths and friendship bracelets on their wrists. I’ve written before about funeral tents in town; I feel like Joseph Conrad when I confess this, but sometimes death seems so present here. Three Fridays ago, for the first time in my Peace Corps service, I was scared that one of my students might die.

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