Africa 7. Jan 5 05

Nicholas and Leonard

I would like to tell you about a couple of young men that we know and admire.

The story begins some four years ago with Leonard, at the time bright boy with no hope of going to high school for lack of fees. He was found by one of the Canadians here and promised a scholarship. When the time came to send him to High School in January he was nowhere to be found. With poor communications by mail, no telephone service in some villages, itís easy for someone just to disappear. There was no time to spend in an extensive search and the scholarship had to be used. Enter Nicholas, another brilliant boy, an orphan, living with his younger brother with an abusive uncle who made the boys toil all daylight hours. Nicholas took Leonardís scholarship.

After a few weeks Leonard reappeared. He had been in an accident, broken his leg very badly and just been released from hospital (the standard treatment here for a broken leg is to stay immobile in hospital.) Of course he had not been able to send any kind of message. What could the sponsor do? Obviously create a second scholarship for Leonard, who had to return to hospital to have the bone in his leg shaved So he went to school a year behind Nicholas.

Nicholas did very well and became Head Boy, serving for two years. He and Leonard were firm friends, a friendship cemented by the fact that Leonard loaned his trousers to Nicholas so that he could have a good appearance in his duties as Head Boy. This is all the more significant in that Leonardís worldly possessions fit into one small cardboard box.

Nicholas was now living with an aunt, having fled from the uncle in haste and secrecy with his little brother. He completed the High School computer course and we were able to offer him a position as an instructor in our computer school. His aunt found him a room in town and he moved in with Leonard and another boy who has just finished High School. They have never had any money of their own, so are learning to budget (sending some money to the aunt who took them in) and buy food. Nicholas is a joy to work with, enthusiastic and always looking for ways to help out. He has taught a couple of modules and is preparing three more. He is thrilled to be working with his beloved computers and earning some money. How do these children maintain such a positive attitude in the face of all the adversities?

The other boy is working, at the moment for no pay, for a local businessman who supplies school uniforms and supplies. We are hoping there will be some money at a future date and in the meantime one of the Canadians is sending a few shillings for food and rent.

Leonard walks with a limp, is now twenty and has returned for his final year at school, but during the school holidays he works for tea and lunch in a local clinic. He is apparently wonderful with patients and has even assisted with surgery (Yes, I know. It could only happen here.) He would dearly love to become a doctor, but we fear his marks may not be high enough for medical school. Straight As in all subjects are needed. Last year he struggled with major depression and his results suffered. We are hoping that with the support of the other boys he will pull out of the depression and his marks will improve.

Most of our work with scholarships has been with girls, who are still grossly disadvantaged. But the economic situation has deteriorated even more, AIDS is devastating families and more and more boys are unable to study after primary school (grade 8). These three or four boys, struggling to succeed, are an inspiration to us all. A Canadian colleague has now sent Nicholasís little brother, Charles, to High School. We know he will be as successful as his big brother.