Since I’ve left my full time job as Operations Officer at ELI Africa, life had not been the same. After working for three months in the not-for-profit organization, I joined the private sector, working for a South African generic pharmaceutical company and have just now taken up employment at the Supreme Court of Mauritius. I love my current job but there are times when I feel that something is missing. Not a day passes by without me day-dreaming about the ELI Africa office in Calebasses, the fun I used to have with Cedric and Sam, preparing lesson plans, working on project proposals, racking our brains for fund-raising initiatives, and engaged in environmental programmes. Back then, I was part of something bigger and more concrete, and the results of our hard work transpired in the delightful squeals of laughter and the broad smiles of the children at the Roche Bois and Pamplemousses centre.
I remember walking for ages in the scorching sun in the middle of nowhere, but being greeted by enthusiastic kids at the Roche Bois OSTE centre. I remember the children’s laughter, their shyness, their willingness to learn, their generosity and the excitement in their innocent eyes. I remember rebuking them for their talkativeness; I remember ending the class earlier than usual and watching them sing and dance; I remember passing around chocolate chip cookies and glasses of lemonade and orange juice. I remember each and every moment of the wonderfully amazing time I spent with these bundles of joy. When I was working at ELI Africa or teaching the students, I did not feel as if I was properly working, but just sharing and learning from the children, from Sam and from Cedric. At our centres, each and every child is celebrated for his/her uniqueness and talent; each child is given the opportunity to develop his/her artistic and academic potential; and each and every child is loved and respected as an individual.
Our educational programme is not aimed at developing only the academic aspect of a child’s intelligence, but is geared towards improving each and every aspect of his intellect. The Mauritian education system is deficient in many ways, but one of the most damaging traits of the system is the CPE exam, which basically destroys a child’s early years by making him/her focus on parrot-learning and memorizing. In the process, the child’s artistic side is completely forgotten and instead he/she is forced to compete at an exam which only tests his/her ability to memorize and replicate model answers. Our educational programme is in total contrast with that of the mainstream technique. Our children are encouraged to learn, unlearn and relearn. They are taught music, environmental awareness, art, sports, and this with a spirit of sharing. All too often, children who are in the mainstream educational system, are forced to stop music and art classes just to concentrate for 2-3 months on preparing for the grueling and torturous CPE exams. By denying then their childhood and by not allowing them to grow at their own pace, through discovering new things, learning new ideas, and developing their artistic potential, parents are doing an injustice to their children.
This is why I am extremely proud of the educational programme which is being provided at our centres. We have come to realize that children should be able to enjoy their childhood years, grow by making mistakes, learning how things work around them and also become responsible citizens through recognizing the need to protect their environment, recycle and also be imbibed with moral values. I got to learn so much to learn from the children and now, being away from them, I miss them all the more every single day. How I wish I could break the shackles of convention and work full-time as an ELI Corps or even at our office in Calebasses. But life forces us to make difficult choices and right now, I do not have the means of making this dream come true. However, I have not given up hope, yet. I know that the time will come when I will be reunited with the children and will finally be working as a full-fledged member of ELI Africa. For now, time to build foundations under my dreams and work hard to achieve ELI Africa’s dream of opening a full-fledged centre, owned and managed by ELI Africa, where the children can develop every aspect of their intelligence, surrounded by tall trees and flowers galore; an environment-friendly centre, where the kids can grow their own plants and fruits, learn at their own pace and be the future citizens of the world.