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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Getting the Fulani back on track

In the last few months, activities at the educational facility in the Fulani camp have been experiencing a few challenges. Low attendance at the facility, failure of the students (who were considered ready for public school) to actually attend school, and seemingly lowered community investment has resulted in sessions being suspended until the MoM team has had a chance to reevaluate community priorities and how they align with our efforts thus far. Currently, Ileasu is the only child from the camp still attending school and we are so pleased at his success in that environment. However, because MoM efforts and resources are intended to supplement (not drive) community investment and it appears that those two factors have lessened, team members felt that it was imperative that we take a step back in order to ensure we are not too personally invested in what we believe their markers for “success” should be and rather meet with the community to address how to approach future activities.

Over the weekend, Matthew and I made a visit to the camp to meet with Alai and his wife Amina as they have been our biggest allies in our efforts and there is already an established relationship of trust between them and Matthew. Our aim was to catch up with them, reassure them of our intended return, but also impress upon them our concerns about the process up till then. Communication for me is a little difficult as my French is rusty on a good day, but thankfully Matthew and Alai are patient and willing to translate for me. Alai expressed concerns about community faith in the relevance of the education we provide and their everyday struggle for survival. He has a point and herein lies a challenge we anticipate seeing repeatedly…. How do you describe the concept of “investment” which has a much longer return upon said investment, when the community lives their lives literally one day at a time? How do you encourage saving for something like your child’s education when they barely are able to find the money to get by today? Even if they agreed wholeheartedly (which they don’t) that educating their children (and themselves) is a worthwhile effort and not just a gigantic waste of time when there are cows to be tended and market to go to, we have to respect that these are their choices in the end and not ours.

After receiving some very straightforward thoughts from Alai , we felt that it would be best to come together with the community itself and talk with them about what sorts of things are important to them and how MoM’s resources may be used to help them achieve their own goals. As a result, we are scheduling some focus groups with the men and then the women, to foster this environment of mutual cooperation. Alai wholeheartedly agreed and suggested that Tuesdays are best for the community in order to avoid market days, religious observances, etc.. Matthew and I are going to liase with Audrey (who has played an active part in the camp sessions thus far) in order to figure out when exactly we will return to the camp for the group. From there, we will coordinate with Alai and Amina about specific dates so they will be able to pass on the information to others in the community to encourage any preparation needed for individuals to attend.

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