A Hopeless Situation

It’s Monday evening at 9:43 pm and I am sitting in the dark in my house in Fundong.  The electric power has been off since midday. It goes off five to six times a day, one never knows when it will light up your life again.  The electric utility was sold to an American corporation known as AES.  What the hell are they doing in charge of the electric power in this country?   And doing a horrendous job as well.  During the Woman’s Day march in Douala last week, the women threw stones at the AES sonel truck. Here in the village I was told by friends who pay their electric bills that until a few months ago, the manager at the AES office did not give customers computerized bills. If they complained about the usage and  refused to pay, he had their power shut off.   Recently they appointed a new manager and the situation has improved.

The water utility, owned by an Egyptian company called Snic, pronounced Snake, lives up to its namesake. The taps in my house are dry since afternoon so I sent someone to the communal tap to fill a five gallon container of water.  A communal tap is built, owned and maintained by the community. The water utility, originally  government owned, was sold by the government to a private company, Snic, for millions and disappeared into foreign bank accounts.  So here I am sitting in the dark with a bucket of water and a flashlight, washing my feet as the torrential rain bangs on the metal roof.

Today is Thursday. The power went off seven hours ago at noon.. I was at GBHS in a classroom of third year students. Last week I asked them to write at least one page about their plans after high school.  Even though they study in English, they are lacking in any kind of creative writing skills.  Their grammar and sentence structure compares to sixth graders in American schools. And we all know that the public schools in the states are deteriorating year by year.  I was excited to hear that the girls and boys in the class wanted more communication with their parents. Several Muslim boys said they wanted to fight for more freedom for their women.  During the class, the heavy rain made it impossible to talk or leave so I sat down in the back of the classroom.  Within a few minutes I had a group of ten boys and girls surrounding me, asking me questions and sharing their frustrations and desires.

Some students trek an hour to school and when they arrive, there are discipline  teachers checking each student . If their hair isn’t short enough or if they are not wearing socks, they are sent home to remedy the problem and then they have to trek back to school. There seems to be a confusion with priorities in schools here. I am sure the lack of socks are not going to interfere with the learning process.

Can you imagine growing up without toys when you were a child, without music and art classes or a public library in your high school.  What would you do if you had to walk one or two hours to school everyday and could  not afford an umbrella or raincoat in case it rained?  Could you learn in a class of 60-80 students with one teacher and a blackboard that had faded to grey?  Unfortunately throughout Africa today, this is the norm for the majority of the population.

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