CAR: Sharing the research results #3
Friday 10 November
Started my day again with teaching/discussing the research with a group of teachers and administrators. I wasn’t quite sure whether to do so many sessions with high school teachers, who are in university, as this is clearly a more privileged group compared to the rest of the country. Also most children in this country will never ever attend high school so was this really the group to spend time and energy on? However, when talking to them it turned out to actually be quite useful. It has been about 10 years (they say) during which students are educated to become teachers (even if very little), but after their studies there are no jobs for them in the public sector. Although there obviously is a great shortage of qualified teachers, the problem is that the state does not want them on a payroll. Therefore after their studies, they disappear either to teach in private education or to do other jobs. So who am I talking to? Where do they come from, and what will they do next? It’s hard to tell. They are at least people who are interested in education, and people who are relatively high educated. They might be future educators, future politicians, future activists. Seeing how lively our discussions were, I do think, and hope, that there is a use for discussing these subjects with them.
A great discussion we had was about corruption in schools. A brave student stood up and said that even in their university there is a lot of corruption. What can we do about it? It will never stop if we keep teaching corruption to children, by forcing them to pay for their marks, either with money or by sexual activities.
Saturday 11 & Sunday 12 November
On Saturday I was invited by the former minister of education, Gisèle Bedan, for lunch. What an amazing woman! So passionate, energetic, courageous.. We had a great discussion about education in CAR, which lasted (without noticing) for hours. She told me about how she fought corruption especially on the level of high school exams, and how in the end she had to resign because of numerous death threats.
My plan for the afternoon was to visit my research assistant Petrouchka and to collect information and artifacts for the theater piece we are preparing in Maastricht, about education in CAR. However, my phone had stopped working. It turned out I needed to show my identification at the Telecell shop, which wasn’t open in the weekend. Bought a new sim card, which then turned out not to fit into the Iphone. Tried to use my old Nokia, but at that moment there was no electricity in the room where I was staying so I couldn’t charge it. It became dark (around 18h) and it started to rain, thunder and lightening. So as I couldn’t contact anyone, I found myself locked in in my room, with no light. Decided to go to bed early and try again the next day.
Sunday morning, Nokia did not work, tried calling people with my Dutch number. Did not work, probably because people do not have enough phone credit to pick up, as it costs them money too. Finally managed to contact a friend who proposed to pick me up so that at least I could get out of the room. I was hoping to get in touch with my assistant later and get to work. Unfortunately I only heard from her in the late afternoon. It turned out that the evening before, a grenade had exploded in the neighborhood next to her house, with two killed and several wounded. It was a sign for people to start fighting, and she said that in her neighborhood shots were fired around every 5-10 minutes. So we could not go there to do our work, also it was already getting dark.
This is also to show that a large part of my work here consists not in sharing research results but in 1) arranging practical difficulties (inc finding electricity, internet, etc) and 2) making sure not to get robbed, raped or killed. Even though I pay a lot of attention and try to be as safe as possible, over the last 1,5 week I have been attacked twice and my money got stolen out of my hotel room. Once people on the market got into the car I was in with a friend, once a guy tried to pull my backpack while I was on a motor. It seems that the atmosphere in Bangui is grim, people do not like white people at all. Dealing with this takes a lot of time and energy, which I wish I could spend on discussing the child’s right to education….!