An avenue for social change

July 29, 1991

Who: Kenneth Montague Jr.

Age: 48

From: Baltimore

Assignment: Lesotho, 1967-71

Was recruited to teach English. On arrival was assigned to teach high-school-level physics, chemistry and biology.

Update: Trial lawyer and, since 1987, member of Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 44.

"The age of the students varied because most of them had to pay to go to school. Some were in their 20s and 30s and had been working in the mines for years to save up enough money to go to school."

". . . As a volunteer you were able to use the full range of experience you had in this country. I was raised in rural Howard County and every winter my uncle and I would cure meat. I remember the headmaster [in Lesotho] said they were going to slaughter a pig and all the meat would have to be eaten right away.

"I asked, 'Did you ever think of curing it?' They said, 'What's that?' So I got all the ingredients together and we cured the meat. The headmaster later invited me up to his village to teach everyone how to do it.

"Sometimes it's the practical help that is more important than global things like teaching math and science. The informal stuff has a very direct, immediate impact on their lives."

". . . When I left for the Peace Corps I was overwhelmed with this country, with not feeling I had any place in it. But when I got [to Africa] I got a sense of being able to affect the course of events and people's lives. It was a real empowering kind of thing.

"I came back having shed a lot of inhibitions about my role in society, and I did things I never thought I'd do before," including working to bring college courses to the prison system and pursuing a law degree.

"I met some lawyers in the Peace Corps and began to see it as a way to further my education. Later I saw it as an avenue for social change."

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