My name is Kylie Richmond - I am a student at Loyola University Chicago, and I just spent the last month interning with Two Rabbits. This was a once in a life time experience, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to learn about the power of indigenous community-based education.
I focused my time in Mintoum, one of the Two Rabbits pilot villages, so I could spend as much time with the students, parents, and teachers as possible. I also spent time in the nearby town of Lomié where ASTRADHE (the Two Rabbits implementer) is based. I had two main responsibilities:
1) Pilot testing children’s books written in the Baka language, including a Baka alphabet book, a phonics book, and a short story titled Ewasa.
2) Create promotional videos for the program so the world can get a better understanding of the program in action.
I started off just in Mintom observing classes and village life, and getting parental consent for children to be filmed. The students were very excited to see me! I was a bit of a distraction to the class, but I was amazed at how dedicated the preschoolers and teachers were to their learning. One of the teachers, Souleko, reassured me that while the kids were timid on their first day with me, they would warm up to me soon. He was right about that! I loved playing and learning with the kids, and getting to know them during my stay.
Next, I worked with the teachers, Nyame and Souleko, on piloting the books. I started by training them in how to use the books as teaching tools, and then how we would test them together with kids. Testing for each book was different, but all focused on making sure the content is clear, relevant, and understandable. The kids’ favorite was the short story about “Ewasa,” a man who falls asleep by a fire and burns his butt – needless to say, it was a hit!
It was amazing seeing the kids interact with the books! There is so little print in the village - these story books were a visual and tangible learning tool, and they created such a positive impact on the learning environment.
My time with Two Rabbits was everything I could have asked for. The entire village was welcoming: Nyame was even kind enough to let me stay in her home, and help cook my meals. I got to know the Mintoum community on a personal level, and experienced what day to day life is like. I stayed up late talking with parents, sharing stories about my community and about theirs. Although we live such different lives, we were able to share and understand each other’s culture and learn from one another.
Staying in Mintoum also gave me the opportunity to see the kids waking up and walking to school together. This walk is not a long one, but all the kids enjoy their morning time together and are excited every day to go to school, and especially to sing and dance to the Two Rabbits educational songs!
Working with Two Rabbits, I firmly believe that education is an important right for every human and that the Baka need a program that suits their unique needs and culture. Two Rabbits does just that, providing an empowering education that the parents, teachers, and students in every Baka community deserve.