Somali   Chapter Two:  Meet Khadija


Jane Talbert stood for a moment watching the slender boy walk away with his sister.

            “I wish I knew more about how to help him. His English is not coming along at all…
but then there are so many who need so much help and I don’t know how…”

Yesterday’s debacle flooded back into her memory.  Yeah that was a great attempt. I wonder if Khadija will ever be back in class after the mess I made yesterday. She shook her head as she walked back to the cafeteria. It was there in the cafeteria that the whole problem had begun at the beginning of the week.

 Jane recalled seeing the small girl at her classroom door with her principal last Monday morning.

            Jane, here is your new student that we discussed.

The principal leaned down.

Khadija – this is Mrs. Talbert your new teacher.

She smiled at the girl.

Good luck Jane.

Jane looked at the dark skinned girl – Why on earth is she wearing a headscarf today as hot as it is? Oh my God maybe she has a scalp disease.

            Come on in,

She took Khadija’s hand and led her to a desk.

Sit here. Ramon can you help Khadija with her books. Okay class we’ll meet our new friend in just a minute.
Right now let’s finish our worksheets. Go back to work.

Sitting at her desk, Khadija looked even smaller, her diminutive face framed by a black scarf wrapped around her head and neck.  Looking closer, Jane noticed black lace around the edge of the scarf. Looking into the child’s small sharp face, Jane marveled at the skin tone – not black and more copper than brown. I’ve never seen skin that color before she thought.She sat across from her and Khadija lowered long lashes over her large dark eyes. Now where was she from – Somalia? Images of Americans being dragged through streets came to mind – I wonder who she is?

            Jane looked at her file. Humh no English at all. She sighed. Okay. Her mother’s name was Binti Mohamad – I thought Mohamad was a man’s name humh. They lived in the big run-down apartment complex down the street – Sharpstown Gardens. Jane drove by it every morning on the way to school – the clumps of day laborers waiting outside hoping for a last minute job provoking a little fear in the pit of her stomach. Her father’s name was Abdul Osman. Okay I can handle that – legal status – refugee. I wonder why they came here – if they just needed money or what. Closing the file, she turned back to the girl.

Okay Khadija we’re going to lunch now. All right children – everybody stand up.
Brian stop that. Okay boys on the right – girls on the left. Let’s go.


            Jane stayed with Khadija. The child’s hand was limp in her own. As they walked through the cafeteria line, she pointed to things that she hoped would interest Khadija – hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, jello, french fries – but Khadija only looked down at her plastic sandals.   Just give her some french fries and a hamburger. NSLP.

            Things did not get better at the table. Khadija sat staring at her hands folded in her lap.

Khadija, try to eat something.

Holding up one of her own french fries, Jane smiled at the girl. Khadija just sat there. Oh well, I don’t blame her. She’s probably scared to death.   She leaned over and hugged the thin shoulders.

            But Khadija didn’t eat again on Tuesday.

            Or Wednesday

            Or Thursday

Thursday afternoon, Jane reported the problem to Mrs. Ballard after school. After a discussion with the principal, she went to the rundown apartment complex for a home visit.

(To be continued)


For Your Information

Read about the Somali refugees in the USA – The Somalis: Their History & Culture published by the Refugee Service Center, Center for Applied Linguistics, 1118 22nd St. NW Washington DC 20037 (202) 429-9292


CLick Here to read about Somali refugees today in the USA

There is a guidebook for Refugees from Center for Applied Linguistics by Ku Os Dally Mareykana Buugga tusmadda Qaxootiga (Welcome to the United States. 1118 22nd St. NW Washington Dc 20037 English and other languages available.


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