School and Other Things that Scare Us

Some lessons need to come from afar to be noticed.

Maasai Warriors visit KCSTwo special guests visited KCS last Friday. Jackson and Wilson, young Maasai warriors from Kenya, came as ambassadors for Free the Children. Draped in their traditional regalia, they told stories of growing up in their mid-African country, fleeing drought, herding cattle and collecting beaded bracelets from their “mammas” when they did good deeds, bracelets which they still wear with pride today.

Mindful of the young audience, they only shared one scary story. It was the story of how schools came to the Maasai. This was a terrifying development for parents, and their terror was passed down to their children. Moms and Dads told their offspring to never go near “school”, as it was a place that took children away from their parents and stole from them their culture and traditions. If policemen tried to force them to go, children were told to run.

Sure enough, the policemen came and children ran. In Wilson’s case, a police officer caught up and threw the young boy over his shoulder. He offered Wilson a candy and explained that school was just as sweet. The officer carried Wilson back to his parents, and, according to Wilson’s recollection, school was similarly explained to them. Wilson and Jackson not only ended up going to school but also became the first in their community to earn university degrees.

In my experience, the value of what is learned from cross-cultural exchanges is beyond measure.  The novelty in their details makes the universal lesson in the story that much more evident and memorable. One lesson from our Friday visit is that change can be both scary and wise. Though our community of Etobicoke and the entire developed world is long past any fear of schooling, we are not done changing and not beyond being fearful of change, even if it is right and positive. A daily read of the newspaper is full of such stories.

Jackson and Wilson are testaments to what can happen when positive change is embraced. Their experience with schooling, despite the rocky start, is a story of thinking flexibly, questioning, being curious, embracing learning (including that which challenged their assumptions) and ultimately, taking responsible risks.

Great lesson. Thanks, Wilson and Jackson, for coming from Kenya to our little corner of Etobicoke so we can learn from it.

Andrea Fanjoy,
Assistant Head, Academics
You can follow Andrea on Twitter @afanjoy.

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