We are at the end of our stay in Burkina. Thursday we will travel to Ouagadougou and Friday night we'll take the plane to go to Amsterdam via Paris. It is still rather hot here and rains have stopped.
At the beginning of this trip, farmers were not happy with the rains, but were hoping that they would keep on falling. Unfortunately, this has not been the case and villagers are very worried about the amount of cereal they will have to feed their families. Starting in April next year they will have a lot of difficulties. Besides the food, water will be difficult to get.
The program of this week completed the visits to the villages by going to Mogobasso and Kofila, we revisited the LAP (Agricultural secondary school from ASAP) and the scholarship holders in Banfora.
Visit to the villages this week did not bring any breakthrough in the difficulties of the village. Mogobasso is still in big trouble, not being able to work together and Dioula men being very lazy. An example of the problems they have is the state of their water wells. They have only 2 deep water wells. None of the pumps are working. This means that the women have to walk around 2 km to a place where they can get some (not clean) water. This has been a recurring problem for this village. What is sad is that they seem to talk about this problem only when we are in the village. No initiative from their part to find a solution. The easiest way for us would be to send somebody to fix the pump, but this would be only a temporary solution. They will not do any maintenance and come back to us when the pump fails again. We had asked them to appoint a water committee of women. They have done it and they had started to collect funds between women. Since the pumps are broken the women do not want to pay anymore…. Since there are only 2 water wells in the village, when one of the pump stops working they all go to the other one. The pump is then working nonstop from 4 in the morning to 10 at night. This is obviously not good for it. We will try to work with the women so that they can gather the funds needed for the repair. Since the men are rather lazy the women are the providers for most of the needs of the family. It will not be easy to find the resources.
The village of Kofila is one of the largest villages we are supporting. It is also an overconfident village: they know best. Humility is not their strong quality. If they have difficulties it is not their doing but others. It is the case with the result of the primary school which are very bad since 5 years. For them it is the fault of the teachers. We know that children are not controlled by their parents. One of the reason is the lack of strong family structure. It seems that men steel women from other men and children are not following the mother, but stay with the father without any control. Even if this is not the case for all children, there are enough of “not under control children” to create an bad example to other ones. We have tried to explain to them the importance of the follow up of the parents to the work of their children. Each man or woman will agree with us, but in their mind it is the neighbour's problem, not his or hers.
There are 2 schools in Kofila, we are extending the capacity of the second one in order to have classes of 40 to 50 children instead of the 80 to 100 today.
There are over 1.600 women in all villages with a micro credit between € 25 and € 35 euro. Since we started in 2003 we have 100% repayment from the women associations. In Kofila they
were 3 months late in repaying us. The deal is that they will now have to wait to get a new loan for another 3 months (the delay in their reimbursement).
This program of microcredit is working very well. In one village we have up to € 10.000 in loan for almost 400 women. The fact that they pay us back once a year with an yearly interest of 7% and that we come to the village to collect the repayment is part of the success. Local MFI (micro financing institute) are not really honest in their information. Loans are for short period (maximum 6 months), the women have to come to the MFI for repayment each month of part of the loan plus the interest (high costs of transportation), the amount of interests due is always based on the amount of the total loan (not on the net amount still due), they publicize a product with 12% yearly interest which in reality is close to 21% !!!!
On Thursday it was the first meeting of the parents of the children attending our private secondary school LAP.
The purpose of the meeting was to renew the committee of the coordination for construction of the school. Each of the 5 neighbouring villages has to provide 10 persons per day for the construction. Also we asked them to elect a parents association to be the contact with the school for academic purpose and also for the welfare of the children.
In the meeting we discovered that some tutors had asked parents to stop sending food for their child. At the same time, the director of the LAP had asked us for more food for the lunch since he did not have any more. It was 2 weeks too early. We asked him how much rice they prepare per meal per child. He told us 275g. The normal weight was supposed to be 150g. Kids with a lot of food at lunch were keeping some for the evening, thus the food sent by the parents was not used!!! We are now with the proper volume. I am sure they will complain, since now they have to prepare food in the evening.
While this happens the children had French lesson in the morning and in the afternoon civic and cultural lesson.
In the afternoon, part of the lesson was outside. One student is in the middle of the group. One student from the circle is leading the others (clap hand, move your foot…). The one in the middle has to find whom is the leader of the group.
So far the motivation of the children is still very high, getting up before the parents to get ready for school. They also enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the school.
On Saturday we went to Banfora to visit the 63 children with a scholarship in schools there. It is always nice to meet them. This year 19 of them will go through a state exam called BEPC.
No red bird in this letter. We kept in missing each other this week!!
Proverb of the week (Touareg): The fool is the ladder of the wise man. (Le fou est l'échelle du sage).
This will be my last message for this trip. Hope you enjoyed them (at least the pictures).