Many of the children of Mathare, a slum in Nairobi, become victim of the pervasive poverty and crime that often defines the community. However, one innovative school is investing in ballet to inspire and enrich the children to reach their full potential. About 40 children in the school have begun to take beginning ballet once a week and the program’s organizers are very optimistic about the effect these classes may have on its pupils. The class instructor, Mike Wamaya explains that for these children, ballet is “a chance to be yourself and a chance to interact and express yourself in an artistic way.”
The dance classes are a result of a partnership with the school and Anno’s Africa, an English charity which provides “arts education to vulnerable children” in Africa. The classes cost very little for the funders, the children practice in a local church without traditional equipment like mirrors or bars, but the effect is grand. Wamata explains that, “We believe it keeps our guys focused. It prepares them mentally and it trains them how to breathe and have body postures.” Teachers have reported that students who have participated in the classes are doing better at school as well. They have more motivation to attend school and have learned skills to help them focus on their work. This is not to mention the self-esteem it builds and motivation to “leave the vices and embrace the virtues” of a rough neighborhood.
Although the Wamaya recognizes the many challenges his students must cope with and his own inability to provide for all of their needs, what he can provide them with is knowledge. “This knowledge they will apply when they go back home and they’ll use it in the challenges they’re having,” he explains. Although the student’s material wealth goes unchanged they are encouraged to see their full potential and improve their own situation. In its initial phases, this program seems to be successful in transforming the lives of its students despite its low cost.
Resource: Sesay, Isha. “Young Ballet Dancers Dream of Life beyond Kenyan Slums.” CNN International. Cable News Network, 13 Apr. 2011. <http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/04/13/kenya.ballet.mathare/index.html>.
A link to Anno’s Africa’s website: http://www.annosafrica.org.uk/
A paper from the Human Sciences Research Council on “A case for after-school care in South Africa”: http://www.hsrc.ac.za/research/output/outputDocuments/5385_Ward_Acaseforafterschoolcare.pdf
A video from ‘The Guardian’ on Dancing Classes in one of South Africa’s Townships: http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/video/2010/jul/07/ikapa-dance-theatre-cape-town
1. Do you believe that after school programs deliver the kind of help underprivileged children need? Do they need something more?
2. Can you think of an after school program that encouraged you or someone you know? What effect did it have?
3. What other, similar, low-cost programs can you imagine that would help uplift children in need?