Notes from the field: Introducing Mohamed Ibrahim:
In his own words- My name is Mohamed Ibrahim. I am 17 years old. I was born in Gossi in the region of Timbuktu in Mali. I have completed school up to the level of 6th grade. I live with my family – my father, mother, two brothers, and two sisters. Currently I like to herd our animals in the bush. In the future I would like to become a tailor and sew clothes.
Christina’s observations – Ibrahim is both my student and also the guardian for the building where we have our classes. This means that he even sleeps in the building sometimes, so when I arrive sometimes he is laying on his straw mat with a blanket. He’s started preparing the Touareg style tea – made from a type of Chinese green tea and sugar – for me when I arrive, in the tradition of the camp life this is very much a part of their day. The tea is drunk sometimes 8 times a day, with first, second, and third pours for each round. I don’t think I could ever manage to drink that much of the tea, I would be sick to my stomach with caffeine. However, the tea Ibrahim makes for my is a great gift because it is very caffeinated and sugary and gives my brain energy when I’m working to teach our 3-4 hour classes.
One thing I notice about him is that he’s very tough on stray kids who come into the building premises without permission. In fact the building where we meet is a preschool in the mornings. When children wander in, he hits them, and the rest of the group think this isn’t strange but when I hear the kids yowling with tears after being hit by him and chased out of the compound I protest. He’s a wonderful worker and our first day priming he was up on the tall ladders the whole time and absolutely covered with paint by the end, which became a problem when the water was cut off and he had to wait a while before he could clean up. In general he’s fairly quiet, and not the social leader of the group, but now that he’s the guardian of the school, he’s more of an imposing figure among the participants. He draws with ease, which is unusual – it’s great to watch him create things without much hesitation.