Tuesday February 26, 2008

Hello Alice,
I just came back from Gabon in Africa where I had some thoughts for you. Indeed I wish I had brought a whole suitcase of your books over there.

My girlfriend worked in an elementary school in the country side. I was able to help her with her work. We were amazed and shocked by the treatment made to such young kids. They are really hurt by their teachers and their punishments always imply physical mistreatment. Sometimes this happens because of misbehaviour, many times because the kid doesn’t know the answer or can’t learn fast enough (80 kids per class and about 5 years difference between the kids).

This is doing so much wrong to kids who usually love school and definitely want to learn (not like in Europe).

So we spent a month trying to “punish” them without any harm or yelling and it worked great. The fact that we were white probably helped us but a lot of the teachers were surprised not to see us use physical or verbal violence.

I think they are the ones who would need some teaching; even if the problem much more complicated than those few lines. Hopefully it will evolve bits by bits, but the road remains long…

Besides that the country is full of amazingly friendly people. Are your books available in African book stores? F. D.

AM: Thank you for your letter. I don’t think that my books are available in Africa. It will be, as you say, a long way. But I am glad that you made the experience that violence is not the way to make children curious and eager to learn. Do you have any suggestions after this trip?