There’s a silence, and everyone looks attentively towards Alberto. At the back of the room stands his father, who has come to support his brave son whilst he recites a beautiful ‘back to school’ speech, welcoming back his fellow students and teachers to the new academic year.
His voice doesn’t tremble, there’s no doubt about that. He maintains a steady tone and remains surprisingly calm for such a responsibility. He’s only 8 years old but he already reads very well. Those of us in the audience proudly look to one another acknowledging that he hasn’t made a single error in his speech.
‘This is our place in the world. The place where we can smile towards the future,’ he reads whilst the other students nod in agreement. School has once again begun, and it promises to be full of opportunities to learn and to have fun for the children of Khanimambo. Behind the children, all of our teachers watch Alberto and the other students, satisfied to know that last year we had our best results yet, with 95% of the students passing the year.
In recent weeks, we have accumulated more than 100 new requests from students wanting to study in Khanimambo. The truth is that, right now, we don’t have enough space for all of these potential students, but soon we will, as long as the construction of our new centre continues to tick along nicely. ‘Everything in it’s own time’, as they say here.
Alberto is finishing his speech and we already want to applaud him. ‘We, the children, would all like to thank those who are helping us to improve our lives, change the things that aren’t going too well for us, so that we may be happier.’
And now, finally, the silence breaks to celebrate the skill with which Alberto has read the speech written by the students of Khanimambo, welcoming back everyone to the new school year. Despite only having had a month for their summer vacations, the children are obviously eager to get back to work. Aunt Rosa, Alberto’s neighbor can no longer contain herself and decides to be the first to congratulate him.
After his performance, we rush towards the front to congratulate him, hug him and feel his small body levitate with pride and joy. This is just one of the hugs that I give daily to children who will one day outgrow me by at least 2 feet! Our 2014 course is starting, and in Xai-Xai, we’re all getting ready to work together and make the very most of all the help you are sending us from the North. Thank you so much.