Friday, 24 June 2011

Yellow Berries & other gifts

Almost every time I leave this house there is the material for a new blog posting awaiting me. Yesterday, I had arranged to visit a school in Gbierung which is not completely built and the headteacher was very keen for me to see it and meet the Chairman of his PTA. (PTA are also like Governors) I had directions that were vague but enough to find it........I thought. I ended up too far along the main road and should have turned off somewhere, so I turned around and stopped to ask directions of a young woman walking to the market. She didn't understand me but assumed I was offering her a lift. She climbed onto the back of my moto, sidesaddle with the large bowl still on her head. Although my first gear setting off is getting better, it can still be a bit jumpy to say the least. Anyhow I managed to get all the way back to the village without losing her or her bowl!

I found the school, eventually, down a narrow sandy track and most of the children were absent due to the heavy rain during the night. They were needed by their families for farming chores. The pupils attending were building a fence around their school garden as I arrived. The headteacher took me for a walk through the fields to a locked building which is his temporary office. There was little in it and nowhere for him to work, just a store with a thick layer of cement dust over the books, papers etc. On the way to the PTA Chairman's house he told me he had taught for many years under a tree before the new school building was started. We came around the mud walls of a sizable compound containing a number of separate rooms facing a courtyard and were greeted by the Chairman and one of his wives. The rest of the family were farming. This was the first time I had been inside anyone's home. It would have been inappropriate to take photos on a first visit but I expect to return here in the future. After a brief chat sitting on low stools I was presented with a large bag of groundnuts to bring home. Groundnuts are being planted everywhere now that the rains are a little more frequent.

Back at school, the children brought me Yellow Berries. I forgot to take a photo but will try to find more somewhere. They look like gnarled yellow/orange pears with thick peel. When you squeeze them they split and reveal small pieces of fruit, quite sour but similar to mango squashed inside. Each piece has a large hard black stone at its centre. When I sucked the fruit and removed the stones they laughed and told me you are supposed to swallow them. They seemed huge and like swallowing a Gobstopper! Needless to say, some of the youngest pupils showed me how easy it was. In fact they swallowed them without first enjoying the fruit. I was told, "They are good, they fill you up". I imagine swallowing rocks would serve the same purpose! Needless to say, I shall wait patiently but nervously for the re-appearence of the two I managed to swallow so as not to lose face!

I like this school and the staff. It has a lot of potential. The headteacher told me "I want to make my school really good so that one day a doctor may come back and thank me for his education." Looking at his resources and the problems he has getting his pupils to come to school regularly, he has a big challenge ahead of him. I hope over the next 20 months I can support him towards his vision. He deserves success.

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