Wilfrido or On the Necessity of Education

Some years ago, my husband and I had the great opportunity of joining a program of long distance adoptions in Paraguay. The idea of helping the minors of the poor countries and  their families providing them with an economical help so that they might receive the primary goods, education and the medical care they need, made us feel, I don’t know, better people, if this makes sense. Once subscribed, after few weeks, we received a letter with all the personal data of the adopted child, which, unexpectedly, turned out to be a very exciting moment, because we hadn’t been given the name of the kid yet. I still remember my husband slowly unfolding the letter, looking at the picture and saying with a big smile: “it’s a boy”.

His name was Wilfrido. In the picture a little brat of about five was doing his best to show us his gratitude with a big toothless smile, even if he seemed a kind of uncomfortable in his brand new school pinafore, maybe too large for his age. Once our adopted son had materialized in that pic, we started to be pervaded by a strange sort of excitement. We began to imagine how many things we might have done for him, as providing him with a high school education and even more if he proved to be talented, Harvard, Stanford, why not? At a closest inspection of the picture, actually, the boy didn’t really look like the student type. His eyes were so lively and that pinafore he was forced in could barely discipline his free spirit. Maybe I was wrong.

I was not. Wilfrido didn’t pass the first grade that year. We were shattered, but the following years went much better. He only needed a bit more time to get used to that pinafore. When he learnt to write he began to send his own letters. He always thanked us, of course, but he particularly enjoyed telling about his life and his family. He said that it took seven miles to reach his school from where he lived, which he did on foot or on horseback when his father allowed him. He also added that he liked studying after all, but I did not believe him very much on that point, it was a sweet lie full of gratitude.

One day, Wilfrido and his family left the village never to come back again and I have never heard from him since then. I was disappointed, I felt I could have done something more for him, as if I had not been able to fulfill my task. Few years later I would have seen the whole experience from another angle. I  was in Costa Rica and I needed some directions. One boy offered to write down the address for me. He picked a pen and slowly started to move it on a piece of paper as if he were drawing. It took him five endless minutes to write that piece of information and even if we were a little annoyed at first, somehow we felt we didn’t have to hurry him. Eventually, he handed me the note. His handwriting was incredibly neat and elegant and when I met his eyes I could clearly sees a sparkle, I saw his satisfaction, pride and dignity. He might be one of the many Wifrido that people the world. Maybe I had done something good after all.

In a week time I will be back to school and I needed to tell this story to remind myself in such distressing, absurd times why I teach, because I think education can make people conscious, stronger and free and even because I feel useful every time I can see that sparkle in the eyes of one my students.

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15 thoughts on “Wilfrido or On the Necessity of Education

  1. Pingback: Wilfrido or On the Necessity of Education — e-Tinkerbell | Stormfields

  2. I think teaching is the most satisfying profession there is. In whatever tiny way we facilitate and enable education, we offer possibilities and freedom, even though we may never know the end result of our efforts. I hope you have a good new term!

  3. Hard to be a teacher, even in the best of times, and clearly hard to be a sponsor at such a distance. We all learn to put in the effort, light the lamp of hope, and be grateful when the odd individual fulfils their potential.

  4. Three of my sisters are teachers. I hear of both the joys and the frustrations of teaching, especially today where some people in the US fail to appreciate the value and need for good educators. A salute to you and all the other dedicated teachers.

  5. All credit to anyone who teaches. Just before retirement, I was a modest Dinner Lady and took home a couple of lads /I have three of my own…who were far behind with their reading. One was difficult, while the other, painfully shy, stuttered on. Decades later, I received an email from the shy one. “Thank you so much for your patience!” He “David” had gone on to University.. and is now winning prizes for his innovative stage sets and lighting work, My feeble efforts were a drop in the bucket, but imagine taking a whole class full of children…So satisfying! Where would we be without books, eh! .

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