We are driving away from the Tsibiri boarding school after a too-brief visit. I feel my heart being tugged back to that shady little corner of the village, where the children are singing, reciting, running, smiling, playing, learning.
The first time I came to Niger in the summer of 2010, we worked at the Tsibiri school for a week. The volunteers painted, installed the first computer lab anywhere in this region, organized the library and provided training for the teachers, most of whom had never used a computer before. In fact, our first lesson was how to open the laptop, how to turn it on and off, and how to use a mouse. It was a great visit, but something was missing. Without students, the school seemed lifeless.
Although today’s visit was brief, it was sweet. The classrooms were cool in the morning shade, and the students were attentive, poised, ready to learn. A physical education class played a relay game in the courtyard, under the nime trees. We could hear teachers and students interacting, voices drifting out the windows. There were a dozen bicycles leaned against the building; there are children who ride their bikes to school, just as I used to do. One class marched, singing, across the dusty yard to their classroom to start the day. Everywhere we looked there was order, organization and energy.
Without children, there is no school. Buildings, classrooms, computer labs and dormitories have no meaning without children, ready to learn, to fill them. Thanks to the dedication and consistent support of our donors, this school has not only stayed alive, it has grown and flourished. Much like the school garden, full of fruit trees and healthful plants and vegetables, the school itself has become a growing, living thing. In an often harsh and chaotic world, this wonderful place is an oasis of learning and love, thanks to you.