The worldwide Augustana College experience

Jamaica Blog #3

Journal Entry #3

Today has been one of the most rewarding days of my life.

Today was our first of teaching at the alpha boys school. The alpha boys school is located in the heart of Kingston, the capitol of Jamaica. This school is where many young boys who have nowhere else to go come to live and learn, and it has turned out some of the worlds famous musicians. We arrived in the morning at the alpha girl’s school side, which doesn’t function as an orphanage, simply a great school. Even though it was the student’s winter break, there were over 50 girls waiting to learn. We all gathered together in their auditorium, and our group sat on the stage. The girls stood in straight lines and sang to us and they had the most beautiful voices! We all sang Bob Marley’s “One Love” together and I think many of us were tearing up. After the girls sang, their principle, Mr Singh, gave a very powerful speech to the girls. He first introduced us and explained that part of our group was there to teach the girls math. Since they had lost time because of the hurricane, they were very far behind. He told them about the young women in Pakistan who are being attacked for speaking for women’s rights, especially for women’s educational rights. He warned the girls that unless they worked hard, they would not be ready to face the discrimination that could come their way. It was very sobering, and all the girls looked motivated as they went off to their classrooms.

After the assembly, we walked across campus to the alpha boys school to meet their principle, Sister Susan. Sister Susan told us that all of the boys who were here had done something to get here. She described them as “delinquents” and that we should expect to have to use very firm punishment with many of them. (I am happy to say that every single alpha boy proved Sister Susan quite wrong. Never before had I met a more polite, well behaved group of young men.)

After speaking with Sister Susan, we took a tour of the grounds. The alpha boys have a beautiful place to grow up! I was itching to begin teaching music, and finally, Mr. sparrow, the music teacher, arrived. He introduced us to his band (there are normally 25 members, but we had 9 because many of the boys are home for vacation) and we listened to them play a few songs. They sounded great! Through individual pretests, we learned that none of the boys could read music, they could just play things by ear! How cool is that!

So our goals over the next two days are to teach the boys as much musical theory as we can, while also playing our instruments with them and trying to learn from them too!

After we all played our instruments together as a large group (which was quite an experience, especially since I haven’t played clarinet in quite awhile. I was asked to improvise and even though I sounded awful, I did it!) we had a chance to talk to many of the boys. All of them were enthrall end with this iPad, and were so happy to play the games on it while they chatted with us. Two of them were in drawing classes, and they showed us their work; it was incredible!! They explained to us how the alpha boys school worked: they have three main goals. 1) to give each of the boys a trade in order to allow them to make money in the future 2)to give the boys a top quality education 3) to give the boys strict discipline so that they can survive in the real world. They made the Jamaican world sound so scary and forbidding, but as we talked more I could tell why. One boy named Jackson told us that he had been dealing and doing drugs since he was 12 years old. He’s been carrying a gun for years. I was shocked at how wise this boy is. He came to alpha boys school all by himself; it seems like his family is still involved in drugs. Jackson came to this school alone in order to escape that dangerous life- I was very impressed. He told us that Rastas, although they seem peaceful, introduced drugs and violence into his life.

 

These young boys are amazing. They were so polite and shy, always called me “miss”, and followed me around with a chair in case I wanted to sit down. They are awesome musicians, great young men, and upstanding Jamaicans. I can’t wait for the next two days!!

 

~Jessie Allen

 

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