We have reached a really interesting stage in our work
as we begin to compare statistics this year with the ones we started with at the
beginning of the 2007-2008 school year to find out if more girls are in school
and if there are more children of both sexes. All four of the schools have
increased the number of pupils on their roll and the number of girls attending.
There are not that many more girls yet (between 10 and 54) but it is a start.
Overall numbers are up by a massive 55% in one school, 21% in the second, 12% in
the third and a puny 1.5% in the last one. Oh dear, it’s Boudoum again! Really
odd as we have done the same work in all of the schools.
The first Association des Mères d’Élèves (Mums’
Association) outside of Maroua was created in the Mofou-sud Primary last
Saturday. The mums are thrilled to be trail blazers! Predictably, Rachel, the
pastor’s wife, was voted in as its first President. With her at the helm, it has
a good chance of succeeding.
Literacy classes (or the Centre d’Alphabétisation as my
young colleague calls it) started after a short delay – Godam was late! After
lecturing the girls at our introductory meeting about punctuality, he was 20
minutes late himself! While we are trying to encourage people here to take
responsibility for their own actions, he explained that sleep had overwhelmed
him! Progress is slow – one letter of the alphabet per 2 hour class. When I
complained that the girls would need 13 weeks to learn the alphabet, Godam
thought that was great as they normally spend a whole week on one letter and a
whole term on numbers 1-20 in school! The third day, he taught numbers 1-5 and
the letter C. I thought we were on a roll until he spent all of the next lesson
testing what had been learned so far. I have to be patient and remember that
these girls are learning to read and write in a foreign language – French.
Now we are in the middle of planning International
Volunteers’ Day, linked with Human Rights and HIV/Aids, as a whole week of
events at the beginning of December. Cameroonians are never happier than when
they are parading for something, so on market day that week, girls who have
never been to school but would like to go, will have a procession, accompanied
by traditional musical instruments, to the Chief’s “palace” and then on to the
market itself. From there we will return to Mofou-sud for a quiz on the local
environment, followed by a football match between two teams from the literacy
class – their choice! Some time in the course of that week, someone from the
hospital will speak to the girls in our class to raise their awareness of the
dangers of HIV/AIDS.
Nothing exciting happening on the home front apart from
eating peanut butter made from our very own peanuts. Thomas, our laundry
man, wearing a Madras Rugby shirt left behind by our daughter, is fairly
Grapefruit, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and onions are
plentiful and good. The régime of bananas (see photo) was a bad idea – banana
loaf, banoffee pie, banana with lemon sauce, bananas with breakfast, lunch and
dinner but I had to do it once!
While Zidim is quite well off for water, other villages
are not so lucky. One volunteer is in a situation where her nearest well has
dried up already and the next well is 10 kms away. Fortunately her guard walks
the 20 kms for her a few times a week and she visits another volunteer in Mokolo
to have a shower once a week. She is not very happy, understandably and is
already thinking of trying to cut down her two-year
- With the end of the wet season all the beautiful,
colourful birds have disappeared
- Rocket which I sowed about 6 months ago has decided to
grow now when there is no rain – weird but delicious
- I was told recently that when a girl is born here,
there is joy; when a boy is born there is more joy
Now that the dry season has started, the toll of malaria
is beginning to reduce slightly, but we see more respiratory infections. We also seem to be getting more and more
HIV positive patients. On a lighter
note, I had to say to one patient this week that I just could not believe it was
the same person. He has both TB and
AIDS and was close to death in the hospital just six weeks ago but when he came
for a check up on Wednesday, he was looking the picture of health; he’s piled on
the weight and looks quite robust.
The only hope now is that he keeps taking his medication – he already has
a history of defaulting – and one of the big challenges here is making the
patients understand the necessity for compliance.
Dr Djemba remains a real asset to the
organisation………………not! He has been
told that the hospital is short of money and won’t be able to keep him on after
the end of December. Despite the
return of the Médecin Chef, he continues to saunter down late in the morning for
a ward round then disappear for most of the day. This week he’s run out of money and has
been trying to borrow from the locals, most of whom have little for
themselves. Lydia, who comes to us once a week to “teach” Anne African
cooking, works for Dr Djemba the rest of the week (she’s a good source of
information on what he gets up to!) but he hasn’t paid her since September
saying the hospital’s not paying him enough! Despite this, he tried to borrow money
from her, but she was strong enough to refuse saying he already owed her money
for her wages.
Today, Saturday, we visited a village called Zamay,
about 25Km from Zidim. Our Lamido
(village chief) knows Anne is trying to help her schools build new classrooms
and he’d like to get the work. He
took us to Zamay to see a classroom he’s built for their secondary school. All very interesting, but Anne has found
a reputable organisation (Fondation Bethleem) who can build a double classroom
for 7,000,000 CFAs less than the Lamido – largely because they don’t look for or
pay bribes. There’s a photo of Anne
with the Lamido, Godam and the Lamido’s secretary outside the
Finally, sometimes we wonder if we’re living in a
farmyard rather than a hospital compound.
The attached photo was taken at our gate and is a view down the main
hospital road. And, as you can see, they drive their cattle through
the school playground!