We are back in Burkina with Eugenie for a period of 4 weeks. Here is the first blog of this trip.

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blog 2014-07-06 2Rainy season

The rainy season has really started. We get a good rain every 2 days. It is the time when most of the villagers are in the fields, plowing, seeding, weeding. Above pictures with farmers weeding a corn field, the women behind putting fertilizer.

Genetically modified organism

There are a lot of cotton fields in the area where we are in Burkina Faso. I already talked about the cotton company which considers the farmers as its slaves. But this time it will be about the consequences of using genetically modified seeds for the cotton.

A field seeded with standard seeds will need between 5 to 7 treatments against predators. One of them is what they call the white fly. A field seeded with GMO seeds will need only 2 treatments. This is rather interesting for the farmer in term of work load, but not for the cost since the seeds themselves cost more than the difference in treatments. About 60% of the cotton fields use GMO seeds.

Where do the white flies and other insects go? On the other crops. A consequence is that now the corn and the sesame for example need some treatments which were not needed some years ago. This is what the technical people know. The farmers are realizing this also slowly at their expense.

Organization of the education in Burkina

The start of the work in the fields is also the end of the school year.

In the primary schools which we support, the results were exceptionally good (82% of pupils got their diploma). Last year we were around 60%.

Another “anomaly” is that the results in rural areas where at the same level as the ones in urban areas. There is year after year a 15 to 20% difference of success between the two areas.

So why such good results?

We can talk about better and more teachers, the training we have provided to the teachers, the support we have given to the school… But my understanding is that the exam this year was much simpler than the other years and very close to the test exam they are doing during the school year.

Why would the ministry do this? In order to make its point that this exam is not needed since most of the students have the right level. In order to get additional subsidies from the World Bank, they are trying to join the 6 years primary education with the first 4 years of secondary education (special subsidies for primary schoosl are stopping in 2015, when the one for secondary schools still has several years to go).The first test of level for the children at a national level would be after 10 years of schooling. Passing from one class to the next would be done on the grades given by the teachers.

For the secondary school exams (BEPC after 4 years and baccalaureate 3 years later), it is a different story. This year they had very difficult exams. Percentage of success for the BEPC around 30% and for the baccalaureate around 15%. One possible reason for this planned low results is the lack of space in higher education (universities).

So they are pushing to have more kids in secondary schools (no test at the end of primary schools and only for subsidies) whom will get stopped either after 4 years or 7 years because of lack of space.

It looks like a good idea if the government was encouraging the family planning first. 50% of the population in the villages is under 14 years old……

Results of our students with scholarships

We had 16 students going through an exam this year. Very good results for the 12 passing the BEPC (100%), not so good for the 3 passing the BEP (professional studies) (33%) and bad for the baccalaureate with 0 out of 3.

For those 3 we have been supporting them with a scholarship for 7 years now. An investment of over 4.000 euro per student. Question what shall we do? Support them for one additional year or let them go? In the second choice, they can stop studying or go another school (less performant than the one they are in now, close to their parents) to try again. What do you think?

The LAP

We are coming to the end of the 3rd year of this agricultural school. We realize more and more the challenges we have in front of us.

The first one concerns the funds to keep building the school and the sponsors needed to support the structural costs. If you wish to sponsor a student and/or if you know of potential funding for the infrastructure do not hesitate to contact us. For the school year starting in September we are still looking for 30 new sponsors.

Another challenge is to have performant teachers who can work in an appreciative and participative way. Not easy when punishment and downgrading is what the people are used to. We are trying to link the LAP with an agricultural school in a French speaking country which can help us train our personnel.

Then we have the students. The program we have is rather intense. They have 37 hours of class (from which 4 practical) per week!!! The selection of the students is made from the successful primary school students in the villages which we are supporting. We realized last year and it is also the case this year that not all children are applying. We found out that the heavy load and the attitude of the director gave a very bad image of the LAP. This year we had …. Candidates for 70 places.

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Children passing the LAP test in Fina.

In February 2012 we opened the girl’s foyer. We can already see its positive effects.

From the students who cannot go to the next level, there is only one girl for 4 boys. Average grades have also improved. In the previous year we had twice as many girls as boys. In addition, from the children registered to pass the test of entry of the LAP this year, we have many more girls than boys. Parents realize the benefit of such structure for the education and protection of their girls.

A container arrived end of June and we need (mostly Eugenie) to sort out what has arrived for distribution. Eugenie needs to prepare bed sheets, curtains, mosquito nets for more than 50 new kids at the LAP.

This trip will be mostly spent in the office to look at our organization and to plan for the second half of the year. I took some time Sunday to go fishing with Karim. We had to walk about 1 km in water and mud to reach the place where we wanted to fish. Nothing more relaxing for me than trying to catch fishes, even when we the walk to the river.

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Some pictures taken close to the river.

Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped
Ne regardez pas où vous êtes tombés, mais où vous avez glissé

Money can’t talk, yet it can makes lies look true
L’argent ne peut pas parler, mais il peut faire paraitre des mensonges vrais

Blijf op de hoogte van onze ontwikkelingen!