Meeting Makau

Legoa (Le-ho-a) is a word that I have become all too familiar with. In Setswana it means "white person." It doesn't necessarily have a negative connotation, but in certain circumstances and uses it is not exactly a compliment.

Most often I hear it from children as they eagerly wave and yell for my attention, "Legoa! Legoa!" This encounter is usually followed by an explanation in Setswana that my name is not Legoa but Amanda or Makau (my Setswana name). Now when I pass by the primary school on my way to and from work, I hear shouts of "Amanda! Amanda!" along with the eager waves.

This encounter was magnified last week when we went to visit two of the local primary schools and one of the middle schools as a part of Child Protection Week. Upon my arrival at the first primary school, all of the children crowded around the doorways shouting legoa and giggling to see a white person at their school. Later during the presentation led by members of the police force and one of our own volunteers at the victim empowerment center, I was introduced properly.

Schools in the villages do not have auditoriums, gymnasiums or cafeterias for assemblies. Most consist of three to five buildings surrounding a large courtyard area. Each building usually houses three to four small classrooms. For assemblies, the students carry out chairs into the courtyard and arrange them in rows. At the middle school, the students where required to stand in rows. Rainy days, hot days and cold days make assemblies rather miserable.

The middle school we visited is the same school where my host mother teaches. The entire faculty consists of eleven people including the principal, and there are over 300 students. Class sizes range from 40-60 kids crammed into a classroom, sharing desks and/or chairs. Not exactly a conducive work environment, but both teachers and students work with what is available.

Although somewhat thrown together at the last minute, our presentations went rather well. We had the opportunity to share valuable information with students on how to protect themselves and how to report abuse and crime. I was really glad that I had the opportunity to tag along and
that I got to know a few of the officers at the police station a little better. It was a really great experience, and I'm glad to be Makau in the minds of so many more children.