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Published:February 12th, 2006 11:45 EST
SOP reporter: Crime, violence dims future for education of children in Africa

SOP reporter: Crime, violence dims future for education of children in Africa

By Laurie Salem

It is 11 o`clock at night and many are home, most likely asleep in their beds. The occasional car drives down the street. Everything appears peaceful. But soon, voices can be heard, yelling, talking loud, cursing... you name it, these voices are doing it. But these voices do not belong to grown men who are old enough to be in the streets at this hour. These voices belong to our children. As the years continue to drag on, we can see the steady decline in the goals and ambition of our children. They have plunged the a sense of invincibility and have deemed themselves urban Untouchables. We are losing our children to the much more alluring life of the streets. Easy money, the hope of fast cars, and bling bling galore has tilted the scale in favor of a life of crime and violence. However, amongst these dire issues, a hope emerges.

The Baraka School in Laikipia, Kenya, has partnered with the public middle schools of Baltimore City to create a new future for these children. The program began in the year of 1996. going into the year 1997. It was based on the premise that an environment that includes structure, discipline, and cultural context will enhance academic performance and social development of pre-adolescent males. This total immersion, residential program`s objective is to provide a safe environment where academics, social responsibility, and issues with authority would be addressed. In fact, the motto of the school is, "Where the blessings of Africa change boys into men."

The program targets middle school aged males because these years are considered the critical, formative years. And it is open to only Baltimore City residents. The staff includes one in Kenya that is made up of a headmaster, dean of academics, five teachers who are certified in generalist studies, and six counselors who live with the students. The Baltimore staff is made up of a recruitment and program coordinator, who receives report cards on student performance and communicates with parents through meetings, newsletters, and emails.

The boys engage in early morning calisthenics and walks amongst animals like elephants and hedgehogs, as well as native Africans. There is no tv, video games, or junk food-- which to them may appear to be alot missing, but what they receive in exchange (an environment free from shootings, police helicopters, and screams in the dark) is a much better reward.

The program lasts for two years, in which the boys are given attention and discipline. The curriculum is focused on language arts, mathematics, earth science, and social science. They may also receive instruction in Kiswahili, comprehension, decoding, writing, crafts, and physical education. The curriculum incorporates Direct Instruction Reading, Saxon Mathematics, and Direct Instruction Corrective Mathematics.

But it is not always about work. The boys enjoy sports, which include basketball, baseball, football, and soccer. They may even play against other local teams. On the weekends, the students go on field trips, mountain climbing, or into town. On Sundays, there may be a picnic or movie night.

A major concern of BCPSS officials, is the scores of the students on state tests. The School of Baraka has taken this issue as a challenge and has instituted curriculum to handle the situation. Already, there has been at least a 20 percent increase in the scores.

Something like the Baraka school is necessary. The children have been deemed our future, a future that looks dismal in the present.