Tuesday 7 November
When I arrived in the Ledger (fancy) hotel in the morning to use the internet, I had to walk around the red carpet that was laid out because, apparently, the president was there with about every minister, ambassador, consultant and other authority that matters even a little bit. They were gathered for a conference organized by the United States, something on how they battled corruption in Seattle and how this could be used as a model for CAR (which seems doubtful to me seeing the extremely different contexts,and then think about the fact that for this conference the complete governance of the country was stopped for 2 days as everyone of any position was at the event…). Anyway, what a chance! Went there to talk to people and met all kinds of high placed officials who were all very interested in my research. And I mean VERY interested. I did not have enough copies of the research report but people sat down just to read it on the spot, and actually started truly reading it rather than scanning. Tried getting in touch with the president to discuss the subject or at least give him a copy. Many people were mobilized to help me do so and we got to the chief of staff, but at the end of the day it seemed to come down to the fact that he wasn’t interested. In the afternoon I visited the national radio Ndeke Luka for the second time, as I was invited by a journalist. When I came in I found out that apparently we were recording an interview right away. i tried to quickly take some notes and prepare a story (if you have 15mins to talk to the CAR people about this subject, what do you say?? – Yes you can imagine I was pretty tense about it). Then when we had our headphones on, technician in place etc, first thing the guy asks me is whether I have a boyfriend and if I’d be willing to marry him. Thank god that after that uncomfortable interval we had a normal, quite good interview (I think). It was my first time in French so that scared me a little – what if I don’t understand the question the journalist asks? – but it was fine. I spoke mostly about how we should change the education system to be more peaceful and to raise children in a spirit of peace rather than corruption and violence. In the evening I met with an employee of an i nternational NGO, who works on education in CAR on a high level. I was really eager to talk to him and share the research results, but at the end of the day it seemed like there was not much I could share with him because he felt too restrained by the system of his organization to actually change anything. Most things that are going wrong when it comes to international intervention on education in CAR, seems to be the result of a failing (international) humanitarian aid structure – at least, according to this person.
Wednesday 8 November
Started my day meeting with a group of education inspectors at the Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS). I was again quite nervous because it was my first time “teaching” and discussing with local people in such a setting. These are people who work in education all through the country, their job is mostly to write reports about the state of education for government. This gathering was GREAT. I spoke about the importance of their work, the importance of sharing true information in their reports, of whom to share this information with, and of how to help the teachers and children in the schools they visit. I recommended talking to children to get true information and spoke about the importance of ethics and anonymity. Afterwards during the discussion so many people contributed, sharing thoughts and issues and frustrations. It was clear (what a relief) that my research was of great use to them, especially the discussion we were having. One thing that really struck me was, when I spoke about adapting the education system to CAR reality/context to make it more relevant (including teaching in Sango) a guy stood up and more or less shouted into the room “She is right! Look at us! We are not proud of our country! Imagine, we need a WHITE GIRL to ask us why we are not teaching our children in our own language?!”
Thursday 9 November
Started my day teaching and discussing education in CAR with primary school teachers, and their teachers, at the Centre Pedagogique (CPR). Again a very different target group, as they are the people actually standing in the classroom. And again it was GREAT. We had some really good and open discussions about the use of violence in the classroom, and discussed possible alternatives to keep order (such as alternative punishments and positive enforcement). The teachers were very attentive, writing down all practical things we discussed and asking many questions. Another thing we discussed was practical things they could do to make their math a nd language lessons more interesting and relevant. For example instead of “50-25″ why not say “I go to the market with 50 CFA and I want to buy an orange of 25 CFA. How much do I have left after?”. After teaching we quikly left for radio Guira, the CAR radio station managed and paid for by the UN mission (MINUSCA). Here we did a 45min interview, of me together with my two research assistants Bonheur and Petrouchka. This was great also because in this way, we were able to do the interview in both French and Sango. What was difficult however was the journalist asking me whether or not to use the chicotte (whip) in the classroom. She clearly thought it was not violent at all. I don’t want to be the white girl who says: don’t use the chicotte, because then people will not take me seriously. But I don’t want to say “use the chicotte” either…so what to do? I ended up saying that the people in CAR in my opinion, need to consider the relation between violence in the classrooms and their wish to have peace in the country, and I referred to the chicotte historically being an instrument used by the colonizers on black slaves… At the end of the day I met with someone from the World Bank working on education in CAR. Had a little time to tell her about my research findings and give her the report, hoping it will make a difference. Also shared my critique of their latest plan for “creating peace in CAR”, which focuses too much on quick results through quantitative and practical means, rather than a more profound change. How would you create peace in a country that has not known peace for at least 25 years..?