As a teacher I never thought I’d get a standing ovation. It’s a moment usually reserved for teachers that have paid their dues: taught 1000’s of lessons, endured countless Christmas concerts and have more dollar store mugs than the local Goodwill. Standing ovations belong in Chicken Soup for the Soul or on the Hallmark Channel (yes, it is available here in Zambia). Kids don’t stand on desks unless it’s Hollywood.
Kabwe is different.
To thank, is a buck toothed, greasy haired man named Ronaldinho: a footballer every child outside of North America idolizes. He appeared to me in one of the 100 or so Indian owned shops that line the streets of Kabwe. One stop shops in the truest sense. They have it all: aluminum pots, plastic combs, foam mattresses, fridges, “Pony” walkmans and assorted 80’s electronics, Titanic Lady Perfume, Asenal underwear (not to be confused with the Arsenal football club) and as it turns out at this particular shop – football posters. It didn’t take me long to make a decision. The classrooms current décor consisted of a hand painted alphabet framing the top of the room complemented by a couple of anti drug posters. My favourite features Martin Luther King who encourages kids to “Live the Dream Say no to alcohol and drug abuse”. Not sure if the second part was taken verbatim from one of his speeches. Realizing the severity of the current situation I decided to act. I bought two.
The next day in place of teaching the intricacies of the date including the sound TH makes in Thursday, figuring out what tomorrow is, yesterday was, and establishing that it is 2007, I revealed my purchases. The warm up: The Euro Stars poster, starring Totti, Shevchenko, Nistelrooy: the Gretzky’s for the rest of the world. No words spoken, I let the poster speak. Before it finished unraveling from my hands the verdict was in. Half asleep eyes woke and shouts of approval mixed in with a class full of clapping. Poster one was a huge success.
Like Springsteen heading into his second encore with Born in the USA I got ready to blow them away. Feeding off the energy from round 1 I stood on my desk to reveal poster two. Hands out stretched on the top corners of the poster I let it drop. Ronaldinho’s chiuaua mug filled the class on a poster the size of wall paper paneling. Pandemonium ensued – the class erupted. Not a single student was left sitting as ear piercing whistles and shouts of Ronaldhino filled the room.
It’s been months since the new additions and for the most part they’ve blended in. The students are able to focus on the blackboard. But every once in a while in the middle of figuring out where the Pacific Ocean is or the 6 times table I lose one of the kids. A play going on in their head. Waiting for a Ronaldinho pass.