I was doing a story on the teachers returning to work after a long strike that had forced students in public schools stay home. So, now they were back to the classroom and I wanted to tie the story with the strikes had had been witnessed in South Africa, and do a piece on Africa as a striking continent (I know….)
Anyway, this is not about the degradation of Africa. Hold on, you will see where it is going.
So, we arrived at the primary school to find the students lined up like policemen…they were singing and clapping for us like dignitaries. They were staring, because incidentally, on that day, some school inspectors were also visiting them. They looked prepped.
It was uncomfortable.
It was an easy story to do… the class teacher identified someone we could talk to, and by midday, we were done. As we were folding our equipment, the pupils milled around us and stared curiously at the cameras.
They whispered among each other…the air was covered with childhood innocence and bashfulness. We took cover shots of children playing in the field.
Oh, the bliss of childhood.
One of the pupils leaned and told the her friend who was standing next to her in a whisper: “Pia mimi ntakuwa journalist”
I too want to be a journalist.
The other one laughed…real loud.
It pierced the silence that had otherwise embraced the air.
” Ati unataka kuwa journalist. Hahaha. Journalists lazima wakuwe warembo, hauonangi Julie Gichuru…?” she blurted while still laughing.
The girl who had said she wanted to be a journalist has a big burn scar on her head, through to her neck. She was bald on one side. Her face was somehow distorted…she tried to smile, looking at us…her face was awash with embarrassment.
Oh…her face. She just looked at us, and then looked at the ground. The other laughed.
Then she ran…she RAN!
She ran with my heart…she ran with a part of me. I looked at her as she disappeared behind one of the classrooms...
(photo credit: mttp images/copyrights)
Oh dear God…Nikilemewa nishike.
That evening, my video man, the most rasta man of all rastaferians, my producer and I sat down and thought of how to bring the girl and her dreams back from the place where she went to hide.
So, that Saturday, she walked into our studio. Her shoes were shining. Her socks were pulled to her knees. Her uniform was faded…
her mother held her hand.
I had written for her a simple news script -. My producer taught her how to read news from the teleprompter…the videographer outdid himself…taking the shot from all angles.
She was smiling…she read the news, she was ecstatic…
she was BEAUTIFUL.
We put it in a Dvd and gave it to her- we told her class teacher, and it was shown to her whole school.
My oh My! The silence in that whole as they watched the girl with a scar…the ugly girl being a star on their screen.
Being a journalist. Doing what she had been told she cant do…
She was beaming…the whole school clapped.
It was all utterly grandiose and flamboyant.
It was about finding that inner thing that is so elusive, that we struggle so much, because of how people view us. Because of what people have told us….
NO! Look, you people of my generation…
WE SO DAMN ARE!!!
Look, you who is reading this, I know you sometimes struggle with little insecurities, inside and outside. You wonder if you are good enough. You wonder if you can do it, you compare yourself with other people. You second guess yourself…
You look at yourself in the mirror, and all you see are flaws, you see things that need to be changed, you see someone foreign, someone you do not love staring back at you.
But heeeeey! I tell you, step out from that mirror, a mirror of self-criticism that you subject yourself to. I dare you, you who is perhaps too close to the mirror to see what lies deep inside.
So, you listen to the laughter that people pile on you, people who define you and tell you that you are not good enough. You listen to people and their negative vibe and their cowardly attempts to put you down. And you run….
But really, what I wanted to talk about in this blog is not about self image; well that is just a part of it. What I wanted to talk about is “children and how we shape them…”
Yes, you with a child, how do you ensure that your child, no matter what circumstances is self confident when it comes to image? How do you ensure that your child, yes, that child who is being subjected to so much hatered in the society, how do you cushion that child….?
I say, I say, I say…. “ Today, look at your child in the eye, and tell that child, YOU ARE LOVELY, YOU ARE GOOD, AND YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL….”
It’s the best that you can do. So that no matter how much the media and the society tries to define beauty, you have already shaped your child and told her that she is beautiful, that they are good enough, that they can do it….
Do it. Do it. Do it.
And then above all, look at yourself and ask…when was the last time you made a difference to someone? Made someone smile?
Thanks a lot mama, for always telling the five of us about how good we are…for always clapping for us when we stood up and recited poetry, when we marched in church….
Thank you for raising us to believe that we are good, so that no matter how much society tries to redefine beauty and success, they cannot shake the foundation that you built a long time ago…
Build a foundation for your child, will ya? And then no matter how much society tries to crush it, they cant.
Live. Love. continue….