Aimed at a school for Baltimore children...

MUCH CRITICISM

June 07, 1996

MUCH CRITICISM aimed at a school for Baltimore children being built in Kenya is due to the suggestion that its organizers don't think those young people can get a good education here or anywhere else in the United States. There are risks, too, in taking middle-school students away from their families to a foreign country with dangers that may be different but no less disturbing than those of the inner city.

But the idea is sound. Providing an overseas educational experience for children who ordinarily wouldn't get such an opportunity. Pulling young men from situations in which it is too easy to succumb to the temptations of the street. Giving them a chance to learn in an environment that is part of their African heritage and renowned for the beauty of the land. Instilling values that will help them succeed when they return to Baltimore.

We hope the Baraka School succeeds. But there is no similar model on which its potential can be gauged. Whether the children selected for the program actually become productive students will depend greatly on the support system the school is able to provide, both in Africa and when the kids return each summer to the neighborhoods and homes that caused some of them to be labeled "at-risk."

The Abell Foundation is funding this experiment with a $360,000 grant to cover construction and equipping the school and its first-year expenses. Other benefactors are being sought for the second year. Superintendent Walter G. Amprey reportedly is investigating whether city school aid can be used. A boarding school in Africa, however, hardly seems to qualify for public funds -- especially from a city hard-pressed to adequately support its own schools.

Inner-city kids don't have to leave Baltimore to get a good education. Many public schools are doing a good job. So are the Catholic schools that teach 5,000 city children in some pretty tough neighborhoods. Diocesan Superintendent Ronald J. Valenti says the key is a clear expectation of values based on respect, for yourself and each other. It doesn't necessarily require a year in Kenya to learn that lesson, but it's a lesson that should be learned wherever the child may be.

Pub Date: 6/07/96

An African education; At-risk city students: School in Kenya will take them out of only environment they know.

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