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Originally produced for UNICEF
Asia Mohamed Ali, 12 years old, from the Ababda Branch of the Kawahla Tribe.
When I was about eight years old there was an insect plague. It was so bad that people were sleeping on their roofs just to get away from them. I wanted to sleep on the roof as well but my mother told me not to. When she wasn’t looking I climbed up anyway but as soon as I put my foot on the roof, a scorpion stung me! I screamed with pain and almost fell. They brought me down and my grandfather gave me sugar-water to drink but I didn’t stop yelling and crying because my father was away in Omdurman.
“I am going to die without seeing my father ever again!” I wailed.
They tried to calm me down but I was in so much pain. My leg swelled up. They could do nothing for me. When my brother got stung by a scorpion they cut open his leg and tied a special stone in the wound that sucked out all the poison, but when I got stung we didn’t have any of those stones. Thanks be to God I didn’t die and by the time my father got home my leg was better.
We pray every day, five times a day. To pray means you are clean. If you pray you will be honest and you will not be an unbeliever. Always before praying we must wash and this washing is called wadoo. Before wadoo I go to the bathroom. Then I wash my hands three times, my mouth and teeth three times, my nose three times, my face three times. I wash my right and left forearm, my hair, ears and right and left foot and leg. At school I learned how to do the wadoo properly. I learned that when we wash our mouths we must also wash our teeth very well and our ears very well. I told my parents so now all the family follows the teacher’s advice.
As soon as I have finished wadoo I place my forefinger against my forehead, which means that there is only one God. Then I bow and pray by saying the Raka – the verses from the Koran. I stand up to say them and then I kneel and touch my forehead to the ground, then I sit and meditate.
In the early morning prayer we say two ragas, then four for the noon prayers, four in the afternoon, three at sunset and four at night. The verses can be chosen from anywhere in the Koran but my favourite is the raga about the stars, the universe and the judgement day when the sky cracks and disappears and all the dead awaken.
Every morning, after saying my prayers, I milk the goats and then I sieve the milk to get out all the dust which is very important. I make the fire, make tea for the family which we drink together, then I wash the dishes and cups, dress my hair and go to school when the teacher rings the bell. The children line up outside, the girls in one line and the boys in another, the smallest children at the front and the older children at the back.
Our school is in a thatched shelter just a little bigger than our homes. We sit on mats on the floor. We have a blackboard and books but sometimes we practice writing in the sand. We study mathematics, Arabic and general studies and we also learn about respect, honesty and other values.
We study for about two hours at school and then we go home for breakfast. We eat porridge with dried meat, or with dried, ground okra, or else we eat yoghurt with dried meat. Then we go back to school until noon when it is time to come home and make our prayer. In the afternoon I clean the house but I don’t have to milk the goats again. My sister does it. Instead I take the donkey to fetch water. We have some hand pumps which only the older girls like me can operate. The little girls aren’t strong enough to get water so they have to get the firewood which they carry on their heads. Once, I dreamed that there was a very heavy flood and all the hand pumps were washed away. I was crying and crying because the hand pumps were going and I couldn’t stop them.
I like going to school and want to continue so that I can become a teacher. If my father tells me I have to leave school to marry I will (she hesitates) ….I will give him my decision which is that first I must be educated.
|Out of War|
|Papua New Guinea|