Submitted by Matt PorterAs you may have read in my last blog, it is looking like the prime need of the Fulanis is education - the more we look at things though here, the more we realise how those of us who have been educated, and especially those of us who have benefited from educated parents AND a good education, take the ability to read, and thus the ability to teach oneself things beyond the scope of the community and the norm, for granted.
So in the past few weeks I have been lobbying in the camp to get the work underway for a school hut to be erected so that the children have a centre of learning - not just someone's house under a tree. This would be good as it would in-still some discipline of learning - one learns in a place at a time - currently there is no place for education in their traditional lives. Or rather, there is no place for a modern, internationally and economically useful education. They know all about the cows and the sheep though!
So, last week Alai (whose house we currently meet at) and Karim (Alai's neighbour), got their act together and cut 14 massive sticks for the frame of the hut. I was impressed - they came to the farm to cut them, as we have more big sticks (we don't use them for firewood!), but we had to go and use another neighbour's pick up truck to move them (bush neighbour = 250m + away!)
Here is a picture of the sticks.
In the background you can see a clearing - this is the site we have chosen. It is central to all the settlements there - we dont want any biasedness! Having seen that they have cut and moved the sticks, as a gesture of good faith i have told them we will get them some excercise books. Remember, so far, nothing has been promised to these guys - only that we would help them if they helped themselves! The teaching though will be shared with whoever can help! Any volunteers?!?
This day we were also supposed to have Nurse Lydia with the ladies. Very unfortunately, she was not able to make it, which was a bit of a disappointed to the ladies, so as I was there (and now all the children have turned up!!!) I decided to start taking down names of the children in the camp. I have talked about this before with Alai, when trying get an idea as to whether it would be worth it or not. I must admit that since Lydia started her time with the ladies, a lot more people have emerged from the bush that i knew were there! So, having sat down with Alai and a couple of ladies, we pretty much managed to log all the children there - most are semi-permanent resisdents - a few who are passing through, but I took down their names all the same for when/if they return. I was surprised then to count 28 children under 15 in the camp. Most are under 8, and only about 4 less than 2/3. This is very interesting. This is also the first time we have counted them!!! And now we have a list, it is something to work from. With Lydia next time, we would like to make a tour of the other houses - this would be encouraging and show that none are left out. Might also find some hidden people!
After this, I couldn't leave without spending at least some time with the children... So, we did some anatomy!!!
The children, amazingly, still remember "eye, nose, mouth" from our last but one session with them. The reading is a little bit behind still - also, remember, we are trying to get children to learn an alphabet of a language they do not speak - English, let alone in a script they do not use! so they need to learn English alongisde this. They really do need to learn to read, write and speak english, and basic arithmetic if they are to get along in the world outside the camp. Their arithmetic is coming along as well by the way - I was in there 3 days ago, using half a pack of playing cards they had to teach them up to ten... After a while, i asked Reki (above foreground in the blue) to count to ten - "1,2,3,4,5,6,7,x,y,z!!!'' said she all proudly! An amzing improvement on three months ago!!! After this session, we have added ''ears, cheeks, hair, hand, foot, leg and arm'' - might seem like a lot, but these minds are HUNGRY. I have also been picking up the Fufulde versions. Not as well as the children though!!! So next time, we will see what they have remembered!
I was also very happy to see that the whiteboard I have given them is serving another use -
A marabou (travelling Muslim religious teacher and healer) must have been passing through and used it to write something in Arabic - any one who can interpret this will be welcome to post what it says! Arabic is also very important in their lives. I like to encourage this, as it is an integral part of their culture and religion.
UpDate January 18th
The Fulanis have finished digging the holes for the sticks, all to the depth required, they were finishing off trimming the ends of the sticks so they are uniform and go in the holes, and then in the morning they will be using some anti-termite products...Sticks will be in the ground ready for beams and pearling by tomorrow evening! Will try and get picture of what they have done so far. But one is clear - they are working and trying very hard. The men are around working, and the children are hanging around, waiting for their school hut to be completed...
Well here it is...
Some chunky sticks there. Getting the next bits on will b a little tricky, but we will manage! It is about 5m long, and about 3m wide. Enough to accomodate 30 children!
We have worked out it should take about ten roofing sheets to cover it. How the children will sit, we have not discussed yet.