A Year Gone By

Dark clouds would appear in the sky, followed by roaring thunder and then the rains came. Everyday by 3 o’clock, torrents of water fell on the metal roofs of the village, so deafening that it was impossible to carry on a conversation.

February 25 2014
This year we have no rain in Fundong village, just clouds of dust, so thick that it is hard to breathe. There is one asphalt road into town that ends at the crossroads. From here to surrounding villages, it’s dirt paths and dust. Beware of motorcycles that speed by, oblivious to the havoc they unlock.

Most people’s lives have unfortunately not changed. My neighbor is struggling again with her little donut business. She has to get up at 5:30 in the morning when the yeast has risen, shape the dough and fry it in granite oil. By 6:45 she climbs up to the main road, ready to sell to students and people going to work. By 9 am she has sold everything. Her total profit after deducting her expenses is 900 cfa or $1.90. The 31 year old male secretary in the school without a college degree, earns 40,000 cfa a month($80). Since government appointed teachers make a beginning wage of $225, everyone wants to be a teacher. The well educated leave the moment the chance appears. it’s a rough country to survive.

When a person goes to a doctor, there is always the possibility it will end badly. Last month the nephew of a friend went to a dentist in a small town for an abscessed tooth. After removing the tooth, he sent the boy home without any antibiotics. Several days later the boy was in great pain and returned to the dentist
who kept him in the clinic but prescribed nothing. When my friend heard that the boy was very ill, he rushed him to the Bingo Hospital, which is funded by the Presbyterian church in the U.S. But it was already six days since the tooth was removed and the streptococci infection had spread to his liver and kidneys and he died within 24 hours. The dentist was informed of his patient’s death and continues to practice.

My neighbor, the donut maker, has a son who is nine years old. He is in fifth grade and cannot read, write or add beyond his ten fingers. He has been attending Catholic school since he was in first grade. Since he fails each year and still gets promoted, I question the ethics of the school. The other day I saw him running around during school hours. The Catholic school had sent him home until he paid the balance of his fees. But they weren’t concerned that he couldn’t read or write.

The principal at the high school was concerned with all the children who were failing so I suggested I could meet with each student and find out more about their lives to help explain their poor performance in school.
Of the first ten children I interviewed, most lived with one parent or a relative who also cared for other children. Six of them had no breakfast, and did not eat until they returned home after school. Several of them could not read, if they could read, they did not know what they were reading and several had poor math skills. Several of the children lived with illiterate grownups. One boy had no hearing in his right ear. Five of the children had no electric in their house and trekked to find water each day. My first suggestion was to provide a glass of warm powdered milk to students who arrived hungry. If I wanted to make this happen I would have to subsidize the program. The government support for public schools is only for appointed teachers salaries. Why do these kids keep moving on to the next grade. Many of the teachers want to keep their jobs so they have to show minimal failures. And principals want
to show their school as producing graduates. Educating the students is secondary .

Friday February 28 2014
The electric went off at noon today and the rain began around 1 pm and grew harder and louder all day. Rain and mud decided my day so I postponed my guidance counseling until next week and indulged myself listening to Gary Shteyngart’s memoir Little Failure on my IPod. After 3.5 hours of wonderful
poetic, political satire and humor, I decided to save some for another day.
And then the lights came on and the rain stopped. It was 9 pm and time to recharge
my laptop, and my phones before the electric went off again.
I have decided I prefer the dust to the rain but I don’t have the choice… on the subject of current, electricity was one of the greatest inventions of mankind. Try living without it.

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