Learning how to read and write again

Yesterday I spoke to my teacher who taught me how to read and write. I don’t remember much of the process. But, I have a distinct memory of learning the word ‘bus’ and ‘tree’ – in Dutch ‘bus’ and ‘boom.’ I learned those after my grandmother died and stayed over at family while my parents were preparing for the funeral. A good education never stops, so I was given homework while I was away for the funeral and learn these two specific words. It made me reflect what a wondrous thing it is that you can ‘forget’ such an essential process ‘learning how to read and write’. A process that simply transforms your life and you don’t even remember how it happened. It just happened.

Girl's reading at the Discovery School
Girl’s reading at the Discovery School

Being in the middle of a process of change, and trying to figure out where to go myself, I caught myself wishing this would be the same for my current changes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to jump ahead a few months – or maybe even a year and realise a transformation had taken place without me noticing it? Then again a good Zambian friend of mine said to me recently: ‘You need to go back to the basics and face the process without fear of feeling intimidated by it.’ It made me realise I need to tap into that wonderful childlike ability again of taking on a challenge without fear – with the same eagerness to learn, explore and discover when I was taking on the challenge of learning how to read and write – without thinking and be open to the transformation.

I have a clear image of that ‘transformation’. One of a girl in the Discovery school in Lesotho. While all the other kids were playing, posing in front my camera and were trying to get my attention she simply sat there for about an hour and read out loud in Sotho from one of the few books that were in the school. I kept on thinking: ‘This girl will get there. She is absolutely determined.’

The teacher that taught me how to read and write was for years my dad’s colleague. I also spend three years in my dad’s class and left for high school after that. Both have worked with passion and unaltered enthusiasm as teachers of primary school kids for years and after 42 years my dad retired yesterday. I’m proud of him and the speeches showed a life time of appreciation for his work.

With retirement his commitment to good education won’t diminish. He also showed it by making a small gesture. He has decided to donate part of the money that he received as a gift from friends and colleagues to that same Discovery school in Lesotho. With that donation he will help the further transformation of the girl that is determined to read and without knowing it, he is also helping mine. Thanks dad and Ms Mary Potjes, you’ve been wonderful teachers for me and as you can see, your influence goes way beyond those formative years. But I guess good teachers already know that!

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