by Raamaan McBride
As evidenced by the two previous reviews I’ve written (Waiting for Superman and Frontrunners), one of my many passions is education in America and how it can be improved. In keeping with the trend, the The Boys of Baraka tries to solve the so called “education gap” with a very drastic solution of its own.
Prefaced with the statistic, “75% of African-American males in Baltimore don’t graduate High School,” the film follows the lives of troubled Baltimore youths in an experimental Kenyan boarding school named Baraka.
At first this concept rubbed me the wrong way; the best country in the world has a school system in shambles so it needs to send these boys to a third world country that lacks current technology. This feeling quickly subsides after the film shows the school as a place for young boys to be just that, young boys. Moreover, it gives them a chance to escape their troubled environment.
The school identifies each of the kids’ problems (academic, disciplinary, etc.) and finds interesting remedies for each. After the first year, of a 2 year commitment, the school has security issues and the program is compromised. I was struck by one parent who made the comment that it was safer to send their kids to this school in Kenya than sending them to school in Baltimore. The film, through the lives of four boys, tries to convey the message that every kid has the ability to do great things if they are put in the right situation.
Is this film perfect? No, it isn’t. The ending needed more resolution, there should have been more back story with the program itself and there were too may plot holes that needed to be explained. Be that as it may, this film pulls at your heart and doesn’t let go. To see the parental problems (or lack thereof) is sad, and to watch a kid with so much potential lose hope is rough. I dare you to watch this film and not have feelings for the kids, to see an eighth grader “passed over” by the system so many times that he can only read at second grade level.
(DVDs and videotapes in the library collection can be borrowed by faculty, staff, and students for a period of 7 days.)
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