I’m writing this post from a hotel in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso that has hot water, flushing toilets, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning, so it’s almost like being back in the states. The power randomly shuts down every now and then but after living in negative star hotels and a mud hut for a few weeks it’s like moving to the Hotel Del. Although I will say that Kirstin’s mud hut was a huge step-up from the hotels with its running potable water, electricity, and thanks to Ryan, Wi-Fi. It’s a good thing we have my multi-linguistic daughter along or we’d be lost. We went from a country where they speak hard to understand English to a country where they speak, impossible for me to understand, French. We’ll be leaving from here, for the states, in just a few hours but I wanted to get this off. On our last trip to the school everything worked great. Even though it was Sunday, the lab filled-up almost immediately with kids eager to learn how to use the computers. We now have the syllabus for the computer literacy program so we know what needs to be taught. I photographed it so I could turn it into a PDF when I get back, I’ll post for anyone interested. It’s all basic stuff that would normally be taught in the first few weeks of a middle school computer program but, knowing where these kids are now, it’s going to be a long haul for most of them, especially since there are so many kids and only ten computers (for now at least). The requirements include a basic knowledge of the parts of a computer, basic knowledge of the windows operating system (folders, desktop, files), and basic use of Word, Excel, and Paint. Currently most are still struggling with the typing tutorial because they have zero prior experience with computers.
On Saturday we had a town meeting at the restaurant to talk about what the next project should be, Robert acted as the interpreter and many of the school officials were there including the head teacher, who we know as “John.” The consensus was that they need a place for the younger kids to “play” during “recess” so they won’t be tempted to wander back home, a library where kids can check out books that are supplemental to the issued text books, and a scholarship program for the best performing students. Of course they also need more computers, but Kirstin and Ryan said that they need to first determine that the ones currently in place are being used, kept up, and supported. This includes upgrading the current single phase electrical supply to three-phase and the installation of an emergency power supply for just the computer lab.
On Sunday, the DCE (District Chief Executive), Vivan Anapple, and her husband DegnBon Aapple had dinner with us in the common area of the mud huts (next to the kitchen). We set-up a row of tables from Linda’s house and served one of Hawa’s new specialties, Mexican Burritos.. After a bit of instruction on how to eat them, they were a big hit. Vivan is basically the “mayor” of the district and DengBon is a local communications specialist. Kirstin, Ryan, and Daniel set this up to keep them in the loop and include them in the progress and intent of the school project.
On Monday we piled into Abbrey’s car and visited the GES (Ghana Education Service) District Director for the area, Francis Ayaaba, Francis who is has traveled to Cuba amongst other exotic places, could be type-cast as a character in movies from Casablanca to Indiana Jones. He was a hoot to listen to. Since he’s in charge of all the schools in a large district, and our school is but one of what I think must be over a hundred, we were pleased to learn that he supports our efforts 100% and is fully behind making St. Joseph’s a “model school.” His vision is to bring schools to the kid’s doorsteps, not make the kids travel miles and miles to the schools, hence the large number of schools. There are no buses or parents with the time and means to transport their kids to school; no SUV’s blocking traffic in front of the school… the kids walk. Although there’s a lot less red tape involved to implement a project like the “Gonna Go To Ghana” ICT center, protocol must still be followed and everyone in charge must be on board. That’s the purpose of the town meetings, the visits to the district director, and dinners with the DCE.
The last thing we did before leaving for Burkina Faso was to put-up curtains in the computer lab. Actually Katy, Abbrey, and Kirstin were in charge of that project. Now, the ambience is much nicer with ICT and education themed fabric, and room can be darkened to see the projector image.
This will be my last post until Katy and I jump on a plane to Coronado via Paris and Salt Lake City. Kirstin and Ryan are country hopping to Mali before coming back down to Tongo. They’ll probably post an update then but for awhile they’ll be pretty much in the boonies.
Actually I didn’t get this post out before we left for the airport so I’m sending this from the Paris airport where we have a 4-hour layover.