The camp is a difficult place to describe but Natalie nails it in her blog, which incidentally is up for the TES awards this year. What I saw in my brief encounter, was regular people doing their best to survive in a totally irregular situation.
Living Illegally in a Legal Camp
In one sense the generosity from outsiders is evident with bikes, clothes, food and entertainment all gifted. Volunteers stand out all day helping you cross a busy dual carriageway to get in and out of camp.
On the other hand families are fearful every day. Smugglers recruit desperate people willing to invest the thousands of pounds it costs per person to risk a dangerous journey across the channel. Being the entrepreneurial type they also deal in large quantities of heavy drugs and machine guns and are, not surprisingly, totally unscrupulous. You can get into the back of a van with your three young children but run the risk of never being seen or heard of again.
Children disappear every week. Girls are especially vulnerable and many women only leave their huts to visit the washing facilities and back in fear of the hassle they receive from the men. That means spending over 20 hours a day with no guarantee of your personal safety, trying to be the best Mum you can be in a room the size of my bathroom only with no running water or electricity.
Teachers With a Clear and Present ‘Why’
What hit me most is that, in the midst of this enormous need and seemingly insurmountable problem, rather than become incapacitated by overwhelm, the unpaid team of teachers simply sit down with 5 days a week with children, find out what they know and teach them what they don’t. Isn’t that the essence of what it is to be a teacher? In the absence of resources, planning, progress tracking, inspections and wondering whether to join an academy chain or not, what remains are children who want to learn and teachers who want to teach. End of.
It’s simply a case of:
“Yeap, take a look around and things are pretty much ‘going to hell in a hand basket’. So, let’s focus on the job in hand and stand shoulder to shoulder in the fire with these children and give them the education they are entitled to.”
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