Today, when I arrived at school, Pastor James was having a discussion with the local official who was delivering the standardized tests for the school. He was clearly agitated.
“Enough! Enough!” Pastor James said as he waved his hands in the air. “I have no time for arguments. I must open the school assembly.”
“I can wait,” was the response from the local official. She sat in a chair provided by one of the students.
In the morning announcements, Pastor James opened school with the traditional greeting and prayer. With the prayer complete, he introduced the students to the local official. Pastor shared that the official was there to deliver the tests required by the government.
“As she looks around, she can see that we have very little. We are a very poor school filled with very poor orphans. But she can see that you are very bright children who are good at your lessons,” said the Pastor. All the time, he looked directly to the official who sat stiffly behind the children under the mango tree.
“Please applaud her generosity for bringing these required tests…five tests for each child.” The children clapped with little enthusiasm. Pastor released the children to go to their classrooms and called Madame Margarate and the other teachers to accompany him. The Pastor then ask that the official explain very slowly and in English the problem.
The official explained that she had all of the tests in envelops ready to leave with us. There was, however, a fee for testing that needed to be paid. The fee was not horrible–about 1,000 shillings per grade level. In sum, the bill came to around $150. I listened to the pastor as he argued that a poor school that is doing such good things should not have to pay the government for a test required by the government. Several times, Pastor walked away from the local official who sat patiently with envelops of test neatly piled in her lap.
It is always very difficult to know when I should keep my words to myself and when I should step forward. Finally, I followed the Pastor and shared that I could pay the bill. Pastor shared that he was certain that the local official was inflating the costs of the test.
“Let me continue to work on her,” Pastor said.
The faculty left the discussion that persisted under the mango tree. We taught our early classes and came from the hut for our traditional morning meeting. Still under the tree was pastor leaning toward the local official with hands clasp behind his back and the traditional stick tapping the back of his leg. Still under the tree sat the local official with the pile of envelopes neatly piled in her lap.
At the end of our meeting, Pastor came up and shared that the local official seemed to have found a comfortable place to spend the day. I laughed and suggested that I was certain it was not “comfortable” but indeed it was a shady spot to rest. Pastor ask that I speak with her. I took this as my cue and walked the official to the end of the path. I paid her and returned with the tests.
“Sometimes,” Pastor James said, “the water does not wear down the rock.” I handed off the tests and wondered which he thought he was…the water or the rock.
Tests will be Thursday and Friday of this week.