We don’t have a choice of whether or not we go to high school. And for most of us, college is an expectation, not a luxury. As I hear my sister complain about going to school every morning, I wish that she knew the true value of the education she was getting. That there are villages upon villages of children that will never have the opportunity to even go to high school simply because they don’t have a Dominican birth certificate (another thing we take for granted).
In Batey 50, Keika (one of her three given names), always stood out from the crowd. She was sassy and full of life, but had an awareness much unlike some of the other children. Emily and I couldn’t get over just how smart she was. It made me sad in a way to know that there were many children in the bateyes just like Keika, full of potential and far too smart for their lack of opportunity.
The moment I saw Keika in the Joe Hartman school was a once in a lifetime kind of feeling. I was ecstatic that out of all the kids, she was getting her opportunity to shine. That someone else noticed how bright she was too, and allowed her to stay with them in the city all year so she could attend school. But as with most things, the other side of this story is tougher to swallow. Keika is the only child from Batey 50 at the Joe Hartman school. She has the golden ticket out, but only her.
It was hard for me to fathom just how powerful an education is to one of these children, and even harder for me to fathom how Keika can live in the city all year, but then go back to living in Batey 50 during school breaks. That’s where her family is and I’m sure that she’s happy, but many times we discussed how “ignorance is bliss” for the people living in the bateyes. They don’t know what the rest of the world holds, so they really don’t know what they’re missing. Keika does.
I didn’t expect this trip to have as much of an impact on me as it did. I’m normally not one to reminisce about places or people I’ve met, but already (less than a week later) I am wishing I was back in the batey, or at least had some way to see how everyone was doing.