Sunday, June 22, 2014

School Days

Education had been a big part of my life before moving to Burkina Faso. So it is not surprising that after arriving here I had a keen interest in knowing how things were done in the African classroom. Since our home is located no more than 100 meters from the village school in Kimini, I would quickly learn that I “was not in Kansas any more! “

I have huge respect for the minimally trained teachers here who work under extremely adverse conditions, unthinkable in the West. Could you imagine walking into a first grade classroom and looking out at 82 youngsters crowded together behind bench-like desks?  Having 120 students is an average class size. Teaching materials are nonexistent. iPads, apps, computers, art, music, technology Common CORE standards and after school programs are not even part of their vocabulary.

 The school building which houses three classrooms is in grave disrepair; tin roof held in place with heavy rocks, metal louvered -windows hanging from rusty hinges, and huge cracks compromising the structural stability and safety of the students. This year grades one(82 students), three (66 students) and five (33 students) are being taught. Each year grades are rotated. Next year, second, fourth and sixth grades will be conducted. What happens to the children, and there are numerous, who fail and must repeat the grade? Presently, they must wait another year before enrolling again. We all know that even after the summer break skills are lost. So imagine what occurs after a year away from the classroom. Many children just do not return to school.

We are striving to improve educational conditions in the village. Now that we have moved into our little house a few meters away, the one classroom building we once called home is now vacant. The suggestion to add a first grade there has been given the green light. The government typically supplies teachers but if they fail to send an additional “ maĆ®tresse”, we are prepared to hire one.

In Kangala, an isolated village 25 kl south of Kimini, where children walk in excess of 3 kl to school, conditions are even more primitive. Two classes are held, one is taught in a mud brick building while the other is conducted in an open-air hangar type structure with a thatched roof.  

 “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela.

Ruth and I constantly discuss the overwhelming need for a new school building and dream of the day when we, with your help and support, can construct a new, safe school where children can achieve academic success. Together we can change the world one brick at a time!

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