published in EducationRefugees on April 9, 2018

A Lutheran school teacher in the desert

Andrew Weiss has taught in Lutheran schools for many years, but when he visited refugee camps supported by the ALWS family in Djibouti, he learned lessons he could never have imagined …

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Life in the desert

“The landscape is something I have never seen before, like something that could be used as a distant planet in a Star Wars movie.

There are rocks everywhere – black, red, a sandy colour that help form the hills and mountains that surround us.

We cross dry river beds that look like they have not had flowing water for years and, as the wind picks up, dust is blown all over the place.

But every now and then there is a burst of life as trees and small shrubs appear in the landscape showing hope in the desert-like landscape.

Ali Addeh refugee camp is located in this barren landscape, but after spending a day there I realise it is full of life.

We meet the school council and teachers of the school.

They are passionate about making sure the children in the camp get the best education they possibly can.

They welcome us with open arms, handshakes all round, and treat us as if we are family and not the visitors we are.

As soon as the school-gates open, inquisitive children come from everywhere wanting to say hello, shake hands and play games, even though we cannot stay long.

They are keen to learn the different methods I use to teach students in Australia, but somehow I feel I am learning more from them.”