There is a public school here which is barely inhabitable with dust coming up from the dirt floors and mud brick walls, Two garbage cans serve over 300 students and the only access to electric is a generator powered by gasoline which is too expensive to turn on. There are computer classes but no computers, biology classes but no laboratory and one shelf of books that serves as the school library. Until last year there was no potable water, only dirty stream water which was half a kilometer away.
` Last year with help from family and friends we were able to build a water system to serve the school. From the beginning, my local partner had explained that once the water is flowing, the maintenance is the responsibility of the school. I visited the school almost 5 weeks ago when they had been without water since the end of January. After speaking with the administration, I discovered that neither the principal or assistant principal had made any attempt to repair the system. They were forthright however, about blaming our organization who hadprovided water to the school. Each time I called the head of the school, he complained he had called the plumber but gotten no response. That was his contribution to maintenance, a few phone calls and lots of complaints. He wasn’t suffering, he could afford to buy bottled water. The students, most of them barely managing to pay their school fees, spent the last two months during the dry season, breathing in dust and dirt in the classrooms without a drop of water.
Each week, I struggled with the plumber and my counterpart to fix the situation at the school. But we were working on another project that was taking up most of the time and none of the administration at the school seemed to care. Just me. I gave an ultimatum yesterday. Until the water flows at the school, the non profit is not sending anymore funds , regardless of the fact that the school was taking no responsibility for fixing the problem. Yesterday I heard that the principal had spent 200,000 cfa ($400) to impress all the visiting dignitaries at this Friday’s funding raising ceremony at the school. But the students have had no water for two months. And the money that is raised is managed by the principal, who has not bothered to spend a dime to repair the water system. He drives a nice car and there are rumors that all his kids have laptops.
The day of the fund raiser, I was handed a small folder, something resembling a school newspaper… As I was suffering through too many monotonous speeches, the following article caught my attention. So much for the leadership of the Christian ethic in Africa.
“ Before we proceed, have this in mind that Abortion is a macabre act against mankind. It is rampant amongst the youths nowadays. Though the Bible and the Koran critically say “Thou shalt not kill”, many girls lose their lives due to abortion. WE can see that abortion is evil. You see what harm we do to ourselves as a result of abortion. The walls of the uterus are destroyed and no implantation can take place again ,when we need a child, we go childless and complain of witchcraft. Please I wonder whether If you were aborted, would you have existed. Know that God and Allah will punish murderers. Since we know the risk involved in abortion, shall we continue this practice. The evil that women due live after them.”
This is what the public schools are teaching.
On my first visit to this African village three years ago, I had carried a
huge bag of clothes and toys for the children at the orphanage in town. There was a preacher in charge and he gave out only a few of the clothes, claiming it was a bad idea to give many children at once. So I left the donation with him, hoping they reached the children. The condition of the home was so desolate and rundown that I went out, bought scrub brushes and liquid soap and hired some of the workers there to clean the walls in the dormitories where the children slept. Instead they washed the outside walls to cover up the filth inside. From neighbors nearby, I heard stories of the meager meals that were served and also the kids with dirty clothes and bodies.
I took it upon myself to describe the situation in a blog, which was forwarded unknown to me, to the charity outside of Africa. Immediately I was receiving angry emails and accusations that I was lying. Finally I was forced to remove my story and send an apology to the head of the non profit, upon threat of being reported to the authorities for causing trouble.
When I returned to the village last year, I discovered that a young guy from my own country, had been sent to manage the finances for six months at the orphanage. So my undercover work finally done some good. When I went to visit, the kids were clean and they actually seemed happy and healthy. I was told my one of the boys that they were eating fish, meat, eggs and milk each morning.
There were tooth brushes, tooth paste, towels, and soap to wash body and clothes. He became a big brother to many of the boys and took them around town. It was at this point I was told that the founder of the nonprofit was a native of this country where I was working. When he visited a few weeks later, he refused to meet me. My suspicions were aroused again but I was leaving the country so I could do nothing.
Returning this year, I went with a friend to the children’s home to bring donated DVDs for the kids. They had a DVD player and an old television in a room with filthy walls and one bench that was called a media center. By the time 30 kids piled in, the body odor was unbearable and the coughing and sneezing unhealthy. As they began watching an American animated feature, we realized the sound button on the television was broken was it was silent movie time.
One fateful afternoon when I was visiting the technical high school,I
recognized one of the students who I had seen at the orphanage several years ago.He confided that he and most of the older boys had been asked to leave last year even though they weren’t eighteen years old. The same pastor from previous years had returned to run the home. And there was no longer meat, eggs, milk, soap when needed, tooth paste and a real sense of well being. What can we do in a country where corruption knows no boundaries and almost everyone, given the opportunity, may even cheat their own family members.