A school without its teachers isn’t exactly the most effective system. Like a car without a driver or an airplane without its pilot, it’s not going anywhere fast.
The whole of Kenya experienced a teachers’ strike this past month, leaving kids to fend for themselves during the interim. Talks of unhappy teachers, unfulfilled promises, and financial complaints seeped their way up north to us here in the desert, but it didn’t really affect us.
Or, at least, it shouldn’t have.
Three weeks ago, I arrived at school ready to tackle the last five weeks of teaching for the term. Feeling refreshed after an extended weekend for mid-term break, I quickly noticed that I was the first teacher to arrive. I passed out papers and chatted with students as we waited for the keys to the school and the other teachers to arrive. Not long after, the head teacher came in on his piki and unlocked the school as pupils herded into their classrooms. The wait for the other teachers, however, turned out to be much longer.
Finances have been a longtime struggle for my school, and this year has been no different considering it nearly didn't open in the first place. But the teachers have been so gracious along the way, gratefully receiving their pay when the money is there, and well, continuing on when it’s not. But after going awhile without anything, the teachers were feeling pinched, and with the rest of their country as an example, they, too, stayed home.
Meeting after meeting followed between the board of the school and the teachers as they tried to reach an agreement. But the reality is that there’s not much a leader can do when there’s literally no money. And the reality is that these teachers need an income to provide for themselves and their families. And the reality is that 500 children were without their teachers as the solution to this problem was trying to be found.
Those two weeks weren’t the most glamorous for me. Tears fell. Questions remained. A heart ached. I hated being separated from my kids. Those 50 beautiful rascals.
In real life, the ending doesn’t always turn out happy; but this time, it did. Leaders and teachers alike humbled themselves and reached an accord after seven lost school days. I felt my heart jump within me when the teachers announced they would be coming back, but I also had to temper that joy with the knowledge that the problem still remains.
On our first day back, we received heart-rending news that only two days previously, one of our Class 5 students passed away. This young boy was so young, had his horizons before him. That empty spot at his desk now leaves a hole in the lives of so many here at the school and in this community. And as I wondered what rare, deadly disease stole this young boy’s life and future, the answer struck me to my core.
The reality is that there isn’t the right kind of instruments in the local dispensary to be able to test blood sugar levels. The reality is that a simple piece of hard candy or a cup of juice could have saved his life. But the reality is that this young boy lived in a place that did not have the right resources for him, and it prematurely cost him his life.
The realities of life here in the Kaisut desert can leave my head spinning and sometimes it’s hard not to wonder, “why?” Why do some places struggle for their most basic needs, while other areas are drowning in excess? Why do some children have an opportunity for anything their hearts desire, while others are considered lucky just to receive a basic education? Why do some families lose loved ones to treatable illnesses, while others have access to top notch health care?
Yet in the aftermath of these realities, hope rises from the ashes.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” [Psalm 34:8]
The reality is that in the midst of young lives lost early, God weaves together circumstances that are for our good and his glory. He reminds us that this place is not our home and points us to his murdered Son who made a way for us past this broken existence and into His loving arms.
The reality is that in the midst of financial hardship, God reminds us that He is certain when wealth is so uncertain. He commands us not to worry because as we seek him first, he will provide for us. And we read that those who humble themselves to a poverty of the spirit will receive the kingdom of Heaven.
And the reality is that in the midst of my sin, God pursues me with a relentless, forgiving love. He picks me up, dusts me off, and claims me as His. And as I walk and stumble and run and skip along the path he has given to me, I know that He gives me his words, his Spirit, and his Son’s example to guide and sustain me.
I won’t always understand the trials and question marks of life, but I will cling to and claim the realities of a God who is good and loving and true.
All our troubles, All our tears, God our hope, He has overcome
All our failure, All our fear, God our love, He has overcome
All our heartache, All our pain, God our healer, He has overcome
All our burdens, All our shame, God our freedom, He has overcome!