Lazaro Goes Missing

The first day of school came and went, and there was no Lazaro.

What had gone wrong?

The home visit and interview had been positive (if you missed part one of his story, you can catch up here). Lazaro’s mom, Lydia, had come to the Shade Campus for an official meeting, where we shared how we could collaborate to care for and educate Lazaro.

At that meeting, Lydia had explained that she would be unable to contribute any of her meager income to support his education but agreed to be invested in other ways, as is required by Shade. She pledged to walk Lazaro to and from school each day.

She also agreed to make education a priority, which would mean keeping him in school, even during harvesting season or other times when he might be more useful at home. We signed an agreement and added his name to the kindergarten class roster.

But the big day had come, and Lazaro had not.

We began to inquire in the village as to his whereabouts and soon learned that Lazaro had suddenly been sent away. Apparently, a relative had taken him across the country to the city of Dar es Salaam, and he wouldn’t be coming to school after all.

But that narrative didn’t quite add up, and the timing seemed particularly suspicious. So, we dug some more.

A second trip back to that small, mud house in the village revealed that Lydia hadn’t been honest with us about her son’s whereabouts. With a little prompting, she began to tell the real story.

After the Shade team had visited her home and offered Lazaro a scholarship, the neighbors began to get suspicious. They approached Lydia and told her not to send her only son to Shade School, warning that he would be stolen and taken away somewhere for malevolent purposes. Out of fear, Lydia made up the lie that Lazaro had traveled and decided to keep him safe at home.

Due to a lack of formal education, both for Lydia and her neighbors, the idea of school was foreign and not to be trusted. Why would strangers come and offer to take her son, practically free of charge? What happened at that big place, with its shiny new buildings and teachers speaking in an indiscernible language, English?

You can see why she might be confused and apprehensive.

Luckily, after a few words of encouragement and explanation, Lydia agreed to give it another shot. And this time, she stayed true to her word. Soon, Lazaro would arrive at school for the very first time.

His journey to education had just begun. The first major hurdle of misinformation had been cleared. If he would be able to adapt to a whole new way of life was yet to be seen. More on that next week.

In the meantime, you can check out a recent blog post telling more about the ins and outs of Shade’s scholarship program.