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1979 - 1982 Honor the past
To attend school at Chibwe in those days, under such radical different premisses than what we knew from Denmark, changed our lives.

Chibwe Primary School was Lines first real school experience apart from nursery school back in Denmark. And being part of this life for almost 3 years shaped her very educational foundation. The relevance of the literal learning can be questioned, both because of the nature of some subjects (i.e. Tonga language) and because of the lack of resources. However, the relevance of the social learning cannot be questioned.

This first photo shows it all. What you see is Line the Zambian. That is what her friends saw too. They did not see the color of her skin. They saw their friend. What Line had already learned at this point, was that we are all equal. We all have the same potential. We just happen to be born in different places on earth.

The second photo is the one that matters the most to me. It is taken on Zambia Independence day 24th october 1981. I had been in Zambia for less than 6 months, and I still remember vividly the sense of pride when I marched with my friends from the Chibwe grounds to the big field at St. Mark’s in Mapanza 2 km away. Standing in the sun for hours, listening to speeches. Doing what was expected, in respect to the nation.

There is a significant difference in the way Line and I experienced this life in Zambia, due to the simple fact that we where not the same age.

Line was young enough to totally accept the situation. She did not have a reference to the danish school system. She was completely at level with her friends. She even spoke Tonga fluently. Only her skin color revealed that she might not have been born here.

I on the other hand, had a problem. I had a few years of reference of the danish school system with me. And that was tough. Because I could easily see the flaws and lack of resources in this place. Even the physical punishment by the teachers took a toll on me. That had been illegal in Denmark since 1967. So everything I experienced was measured and reflected on from my danish perspective. My mental state was being heavily rearranged! For good and for worse. I despised the physical punishment, especially when my classmates of less skill had to endure it nearly daily. But the first time I felt it on my own body, for not doing my homework, something marvelous happened: I became Zambian too.

You see, the teachers could have spared me because I was different, for being white. But because they did not treat me different, I did not feel different. I felt I belonged.

Now, the feeling of belonging is the most important feeling for any human being, and in a child's education I believe it is the most fundamental aspect of successful learning.

So returning to Denmark, a country with a very resourceful educational system, it was an unexpected shock for my sister and I to experience the feeling of not belonging. Nobody really understood what we had been through. Nobody really understood what basis of the nature of friendship, respect and humility we had learned at Chibwe.
These aspects are what we started to realize as adults. We treasure them.

We are deeply thankful for the way we where met at Chibwe by our sweet friends and our courageous teachers. You shaped our future as reflecting human beings. You helped shape us to what we are today.

In special memory of the headmaster at the time, the late Mr. Himpyalii. He was a very good man, and the teacher I have the most respect for, ever! On this photo, I have just handed over a small gift to him, on the day I am leaving for Denmark.

Photos by:
Johannes Berggreen
Birgit Berggreen

lifelike.dk - Jesper Berggreen