An Immigrant, A Learner :Working and Learning Afresh


When I look at my friends volunteer activities, I am amazed at how many are involved in teaching part time here in Philadelphia at both the regular age and adult education classes. Regular classes in the school district of Philadelphia do not cater for adult learners and certainly not those with minimal education. Working with speakers of every language represented in these areas, they work behind the scenes in a great concert of the young and the older learners, with the former teaching the latter in reverse of time tested tradition.

Who will write about these unsung heroes, both students and teachers? For the college student-teacher, life has become so much more than assignments and exams, and assumed a mature air in the company of their elders. For their attentive classes, this is a rest stop that further shows how far they are from countries like Liberia and Honduras. Often, many of these people have fled political strife, and uprooted stable families and generations of memories. For the college kids, they are only beginning the pages of their lives, and some have not yet closed the two decade chapter.

I salute this group, this crew of people learning from each other. I wonder who will really care after their work is done and they have packed up the project for the semester. I realsie that the best things in life are free. I often wondered what I could possibly do if Kenya was torn apart by civil war as many other neighbors, independence peers have done. Would I go to the United Nations High Commisioner For Refugees and plead my status to come to America. Would I get a Refugee registration card and attain rare passage to America? Would my case come up in New York or some other city. And even if I were legit and allowed to stay, would I arrive in a hotel or motel and stay over with my family or would I have to land wherever I may?

I would wonder whether my degree earned at the U.Nairobi or Kenyatta U. would get me a job even though I left my degree documents at home in flames. I would like an opportunity to prove my competence and quickly realise that the rules are different if your first language is not English and your degree is in a different language. That is where the top end of the people in the adult class for English lie. The vast majority are not very well educated and would probably never reach attainment. For them, the goal is to be able to read street signs and bills and of course, news of home.

I think of the class now, where my buddy Ms. K taught last year, and where there is such a long waiting line for the English class. As I move into next week and the next, i shall be encouraged by the hopefulness of their stories, and the passion in their eyes. And still I will be proud and rise to applaud the effort, always hoping for a result to be proud of.


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