Muktar Idhow runs a new kids program at a city-owned multicultural center here in Manchester. Visiting on a Sunday afternoon, one might see about 30 Somali Bantu kids sitting around long tables. Girls and boys are separated, sitting youngest to oldest. Idhow holds a yard stick and passes out worksheets with multiplication problems to the fifth-grade boys. Some of the boys seem better at math than the adults in the room.
“You’re so wrong! You’re so wrong,” yells one boy when Idhow challenges his answer. Idhow uses longhand to calculate the answer. “You’re correct,” he says. “I didn’t know how you got it. 132. OK.”
In the meantime, the oldest students — all girls wearing headscarves — learn how to speak Arabic and write their names in Somali. Their teacher is a young Somali Bantu man who’s studying at the local community college.