For countless children around the globe, school is a demoralizing experience. Not because they are stupid, but because they don’t understand the language of instruction. Jawid* in West Asia was one of them.
When he was nine years old, his parents took him out of school because he didn’t make any progress. Thinking back to his classroom experience, Jawid remembers how the teacher yelled at him when he didn’t know the correct answers. Most of the other children spoke the national language and they were able to follow the teacher's instructions, but Jawid had not yet learned the national language because he was a Lahi* speaker. He also remembers that all the books and stories were in the national language, and that he didn’t understand them. While the other children listened to the lessons, he sat in bewilderment. He was convinced that he was stupid and would never be able to learn.
One night, he overheard his parents talking about a new preschool in the neighbourhood. This preschool was in Lahi, their language! His parents planned to send his younger sisters there. Jawid wished he could go, too, but knew he was too old for preschool.
The next day, Jawid offered to walk his sisters to the preschool. When they arrived, he sat down, hoping the teacher wouldn’t notice he was a few years older than the other students. Well, she noticed, of course, but allowed him to stay. Jawid breathed a sigh of relief.
The lessons and activities for the day went on, all in Lahi. Jawid was amazed that he understood everything. He got all the questions right!
“It’s story time,” the teacher announced after a while. Without even thinking, Jawid blurted out, “Is the story in Lahi?”
The teacher paused for a moment. “Yes, Jawid. All the stories, activities, and books in this classroom are in Lahi.”
This year, Jawid will learn all his numbers and letters and he will learn them all in Lahi. This year, Jawid will realize how smart he really is.
* Pseudonyms. Authors' names and locations withheld due to sensitivity