"I want to learn to play them all." - News - Gondwana Collection

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"I want to learn to play them all."

Avatar of koney koney - 06. December 2019 - Discover Namibia

Kati is particularly taken with the drums. He says that he would like to learn to play all his favourite instruments. Whether his enthusiasm lasts, will be seen next year. (Photo: Kirsten Kraft)

Kirsten Kraft

Bongo, marimba, drums or perhaps the piano? Choices can be tough. But not for Kati. The seven-year-old, whose full name is Elijah Hwande, wants to learn to play them all, he says.

Just a year ago Kati was unable to recognise different colours, he did not know how to count and he hardly said a word because he could not speak any language properly. But as soon as a bongo drum was placed in front of him, he started to play it with enthusiasm and a sense of rhythm.

Kati was discovered by graffiti superstar Mo Starr from Kuwait who visited the Swakopmund suburb of Mondesa and other places as part of Gondwana’s Celebration of Colour. The Gondwana Collection Namibia and the Informanté newspaper published a short video of the talented boy on social media platforms and gave him a bongo drum as a present.

In reaction to the video people suggested that more should be done for Kati, who so far was only used to playing in the streets of Mondesa. The Gondwana Care Trust stepped in to pave the way for Kati's education. The Trust has taken charge of several social responsibilities, supports projects for those in need and is engaged in environmental protection. Kati was enrolled in Hilda Meyer's Learning Right Kiddies Centre in Swakopmund, and the Gondwana Care Trust covered the costs.

Now that the preschool year has ended I am curious. I wonder how the boy is doing. What did he learn and what is in the pipeline for him next?

The year at preschool has turned shy, taciturn Kati into a bright little chap. "He no longer plays the bongo drum only," says Hilda Meyer. “Now he is very skilful with the marimba as well.”

Kati proudly presents his workbook. Hilda Meyer says that he attended preschool conscientiously and with joy. (Photo: Kirsten Kraft)

During a recent performance at the House of Youth (Haus der Jugend) in Swakopmund, Kati entertained the audience with a musical performance while the stage sets were changed. "The audience was delighted”, Hilda says proudly.

But music alone will not get him through school...

"He also applied himself very conscientiously to his schoolwork," the kindergarten manager adds. “Kati attended school regularly and was happy to come here. He brought us a lot of joy because he really loves to learn."

School psychologist Nadezna Swanepoel nevertheless advises against enrolling Kati in primary school next year. After putting him through a school-readiness test she found that he is not ready yet to cope with the demands of a normal school. “Unfortunately he is still lacking cognitive maturity – i.e. the ability to complete certain trains of thought, memory retention, language skills, basic perception, numerical abilities. Enrolling him in school would not be a good decision.”

Kati would fail in a public school, and there is no place left for next year anyway. But based on the psychologist’s report, two private schools – the Riverside Private School and the Swakopmund Christian   Academy – also advise against Kati starting school. “It would be dreadful for him if he cannot follow lessons properly," both schools confirmed.

So Kati is to spend another year in kindergarten? He is seven years old, all his preschool friends will be going to primary school and are looking forward to it. How disappointed will Kati be about not being able to join them?

The Gondwana Care Trust, with the consent of the boy’s mother, decided to change things for Kati, too. Next year he will attend Toni Bosch’s Montessori Sunshine Corner preschool.

The Montessori educational concept was developed and applied by Maria Montessori from 1907 onwards. The guidelines and curricula are the same as in any other school, but children are allowed to decide themselves for how long they want to deal with a topic or activity. Teachers address each child individually. At the Montessori Sunshine Corner Kati will have the opportunity to adapt to learning in school surroundings and after a few months, depending on his progress, he may change over to the Swakopmund Montessori Academy run by Nikki Gantz. A fantastic offer. A great chance!

But what will become of his love of music?

The Gondwana Care Trust comes to the rescue in this respect as well. Kati has already experienced his first trial lesson on the piano with Christiane Ast, who teaches piano and saxophone. His feet do not reach the piano’s pedals yet and he still needs to learn that sound can be produced with a light touch, too. Kati immediately hit the keys with all ten fingers and with so much zest that the teacher teased him about being a "gifted pianist". Fascinated, he craned his neck and watched in amazement as the small hammers in the piano were thrown against the strings by the keystroke.

But he was even more interested in the drum set in the corner. Time and again he eyed the various drums just waiting to be played by him.

The music lesson went by in a flash. Kati’s first impression of the new environment was quite positive. Things will be taken slowly next year and whether his enthusiasm can be maintained will be put to the test then. On the way home, when I asked him which musical instrument he would like to learn, he enthusiastically replied, "I want to play them all." Then he reached for my hand and looked at me with pleading eyes, "Please, take me back there tomorrow."

The foundation for Kati's journey through life has been laid by Hilda Meyer (middle) who runs the Learning Right Kiddies Centre in Swakopmund. The previously insecure boy has turned into a bright little chap. (Photo: Kirsten Kraft)
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