Opportunity despite challenges

by | Aug 29, 2017

“After there’s been an event of violence, we notice that the children create guns out of sticks and pretend to shoot their peers.” —Viviane, a preschool teacher in Bangui

During our first day of Little Ripples training in Bangui, we learned a lot about the challenges preschool teachers face daily with their students. Children come to school hungry, dirty, tired, crying, and timid, and imitating the violence they’ve seen as a result of the conflict that’s been affecting their country since 2012. “Some children can spend the entire morning of school crying out of hunger,” said one teacher. Other children remain shy and quiet, and barely participate in any activities, despite the teacher’s efforts. All teachers experience absences throughout the week because, as they explained, children would rather go with their parents to their “garden” where they may receive a small amount of food than attend school. Teachers also mentioned the increase in orphaned children as a result of the conflict and how too many of their students are without parents or a secure home or family.

It’s not easy to hear all of this, but, as a group, we talk about solutions. We shift the perspective and focus on the significant opportunity this group of teachers has. While acknowledging the few resources available to the teachers by way of learning materials or support for school meals, we emphasize how, despite all the challenges, they can have an enormous impact on the well-being and resilience of children in their community by simply creating a positive, safe, and nurturing space.

In the coming days, we’ll be working with the teachers in adapting the Little Ripples play-based, social-emotional, and peacebuilding tools. We learned today that some teachers are already implementing a Little Ripples approach. During our module on the three key responsibilities of Little Ripples teachers—ensuring children are safe, having fun, and learning—teachers shared examples of positive techniques they use to create a safe and peaceful environment. Viviane, a preschool teacher in central Bangui, shared, “When we see children playing with fake guns and pretending to be violent, we bring out soccer balls and even we teachers start playing soccer and chasing the children around to encourage them to play something positive and to change their mind from violence.”

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