Literacy programme volunteer, Anneke Jagau, gives us a glimpse into the life of the little boy she’s teaching to read every week.
The school in Kewtown that I visit every Tuesday for the literacy programme is not very far away but it always feels as though I’m driving into a completely different world. Kewtown is one of the poorest areas in Athlone. Out the window of my car, I see rows of badly maintained houses, grey blocks of flats and deteriorated playgrounds. Even during ‘school hours’, many youngsters of school going age hang around on the streets and at the shops. Names of the different gangs are spray painted on the walls to indicate territory. Sadly, the police have very little presence in this area; the gangs often have the last word.
My heart breaks when I hear the stories of the children. They grow up in a world that exposes them to too much too young. The little seven-year-old boy who I always read with is a cute little chap but he finds it hard to concentrate. He is very restless. In his eyes you can read the pain and the sadness, caused by the things that have happened in his life. Last week, he was wearing a little bracelet which he told me proudly he’d made himself. I asked him how he’d done it and he said, “Oh, very easy, I made it from a condom. They are always behind our flat. They throw them their when they are done. I just washed it and burned the soft plastic. Do you like it?”