17 March 2011

Events haven't warranted

All has been calm since Tuesday, and what actually happened on Tuesday remains unclear. The students gathered in Zogona/Zone du Bois, but the military made it very clear that renewed demonstrations were not welcome. That there were injuries is certain, and I have a first-hand report of shots fired in the area...but the extent of casualties isn't being reported anywhere. Not too surprising given the treatment of journalists during the Friday march (Anglophones: I think that bit only showed up in one of the French articles I linked. At least one journalist says police struck him and took his camera; others have claimed they were chased away).

For some reason, all the news outlets seem to think that the University closure is the biggest part of the story, but while that's a big deal (though I recently read that the universities haven't been functioning for a year anyway because of unofficial professorial striking; frustratingly, I can't find that link again), it overlooks the equally important closure of ALL schools. This is ... indescribably unfair.

The life of a student in Burkina Faso is HARD. I had students who biked 15km every morning to come to class. Some of them didn't really have any family in our village, so their options at lunch were to bike home or go hungry - they certainly didn't have the money to buy food. In theory, the school had a canteen to serve lunch to just that population; in practice, said canteen was open for about a week and a half of the school year. Many of the students had no one to speak French with at home, so they barely spoke the language they were being taught in. Above the homework we professors gave, they have penurious chores, like hauling water 2 km or more in calabashes on their heads, or in certain seasons getting up at 3 in the morning to work the harvest. Often sick from malnutrition or contaminated water, students who miss class face more than just the loss of points for whatever assignments happened to be due that day - they will likely also receive a penalty deduction of more points. That can be avoided by going to the doctor and getting a note - but when you're sick, biking 15km is not an attractive option. And on top of all of that, many of the students aren't getting any support at home - a sad fact is many students are not only not encouraged to attend school, they are forced by their families to drop out so that they have more time to plant the fields, or work in their father's shops, or help their mothers cook for the passel of young children in the courtyard.

That's not all the challenges. Just some of the major ones, enough to make my point. Which is this: if you see a student in your class, they REALLY WANT TO BE THERE.

Apologies. In the next post I'll take a step back from the editorializing and get back to letting my friends and family know what's going on.

3 comments:

Eileen said...

Happy St.Paddy's day, me darlin'!
"May the Lord keep you in His hand and never close His fist too tight on you."
Loving you in prayer, mom

AK said...

The functionality of the canteen depends on the corruption level of the administration. Some schools start as early as October for the canteen (I have actually witnessed this and I'm so glad that the school is finally getting a PCV... maybe). Others sound like your extreme. Some fall down the middle, like mine used to start around second term. The cost is actually pretty good if there isn't too much embezzlement. At my school it was 75 CFA for a decent sized plate.

You are correct, the university in Ouagadougou hasn't been functioning for several years now on the normal schedule. At least for the entirety of my time as a PCV so basically before your time. They are actually on a separate schedule from the rest of the educational institutions. However, universities and professional schools at KDG, Bobo, etc. have been on the "regular" schedule.

It's very unfortunate that students who want to learn aren't getting that chance.

*Editorial begin* I think it's the government's control of media outlets and recent interference in a once mostly free press that is the reason. It began with BBC being ejected from the country (for reasonable causes, but the timing is off), and now as you mentioned, reporters being hassled.

They don't want the rest of the world to know what is really going on. Also, I have lots of unexpressed theories as to why literacy rates have remained so low in the country over the past X number of years, but let's not go into that in this comment section. The government doesn't want the world to realize:

A. What the heck is going on.
B. That people in the equivalent of middle school/junior high may or may not be over the age of 18, and that's why school is closed for them too since they are likely to protest.
C. That their numbers are fabricated in the realm of education.
*end editorial*

I promise to write more stuff, hopefully well after today.

Good luck and stay safe to both you and the people that you are "developing."

Brittany said...

thank you for pointing out the closure of all schools. it has been so discouraging to recognize the lack of attention paid to this, but equally to the lack of attention paid to everything that is happening. the world's eyes are elsewhere while the world in Burkina changes..