Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fontou École Primaire, Guinea, West Africa

The dirt track leading to Fontou village
Fontou Village

Fontou École Primaire (Fontou Primary School)

This week the new school year started in South Africa. Every school- going child began his /her new grade; many little ones started their school career. This made me think back to the schools in Guinea, West Africa.

The children pose for a photograph in their classroom

Education in the West African country of Guinea is beset by challenges: low school enrolment, gender inequity in enrolment (can you believe it in this day and age? Yet it's true), a shortage of trained and skilled teachers, a scarcity of textbooks and educational materials, overcrowded urban schools, and a lack of schools altogether in some rural areas. There are many USAID-funded projects led by the Education Development Centre (EDC), working with the Guinean government for the past twelve years. However, when I walked into the “classroom” of Fontou École Primaire, I wondered when (if ever) help would arrive at this school.

I was the liaison person in a project initiated by a dear friend who had moved back to Australia and motivated her local church to donate pens, pencils, erasers, rulers and jotters to a school in Guinea. I normally waited three months for the parcel to arrive from Perth and at her request I delivered it to the primary school in Lero. (Lero was the village 3km/1,8miles from our camp) As far as I knew, no such assistance was available to Fontou Primary School.
I subsequently went around the departments on the mine where I worked and chivvied everyone into keeping their extra white paper for me. So often in an administrative environment, a page is thrown into the wastepaper basket with perhaps only one line or paragraph on it. The geologists and mine superintendents also kept A3 paper for me. I found a charitable organization in Europe who sent me felt-tip pens, pencils and a variety of ballpoint pens to donate to a school at my discretion.

The classroom had no ceiling; only an ill-fitting, corregated roof

My boss and the carpenter walking towards the school building to inspect the newly fitted ceilings. Only minutes before the cow to the left of the photo had been in the classroom, but I was too late to capture this scene on camera
I worked in the maintenance department and got on very well with my two bosses. Initially they used to “humour” me with my special projects, but later they also caught the enthusiasm and it wasn’t long before I’d convinced them to use wood off cuts and make proper ceilings for the Fontou school classroom at the company carpentry shop. These were taken out to the school and the carpenter did a wonderful job fitting the ceilings. When the job was complete, my boss fetched me and with the paper collected from the offices as well as a large carton of stationery we returned to a very happy school of children and staff.
A very proud class monitor (prefect) poses
in the classroom with new ceilings

Before I left in 2006, I managed to pass my small project of trying to help the school, albeit in this small manner, to an empathetic French geologist who is still on the mine and as far as I know she is still liaising between the charity and Fontou school.

1 comment:

  1. It is wonderful what you tried to do for this small school in West Guinea. Thank God you were able to get an empathetic French geologist to carry on the work after your departure. I truly thank God for people like you and other like minded dear ones who will step up and do what needs to be done to help those less fortunate. "To whom much is given, much is required." Luke 12:48


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