This week was field trip week. Bargo, our driver Daniel and I left Ouagadougou early in the morning on Tuesday in one of ODE’s pickup trucks. The project that I work on, PAPPDE, is implemented in two municipalities in Eastern Burkina Faso called Bilanga and Matiacoali. Bargo usually goes on field trips once a month to meet his colleagues and se how things are proceeding. Having read a lot about the project I was very excited to see it and meet our colleagues in the east.
Roads in Burkina Faso are of very variable quality. Bigger and more important roads tend to be paved, but there is usually a lot of holes in them. We hadn’t been on the road for more than thirty minutes until one of the front tyres went flat. Fortunately, all of us don’t use the driver’s licence mainly for identification. When I asked Daniel if flat tyres occur often, he replied that it was the first time in February. That’s a yes I guess. In defence of Burkinabe roads, it was something dropped from a truck that pierced the hole.
The first intentional stop was the Bilanga Centre for Girls in High School. High School are not everywhere to be found in Burkina. If you’re from a small village in the Bilanga area, and bound for high school, you may have to travel as much as 100 km to go there. Naturally if you’re from the average rural Burkinabe family, you can’t afford going back and forth to much. So you rent a room in Bilanga town, where the High School is. This is what all girls who went to High School there did before. Some still do. Unfortunately, they faced a broad range of difficulties when renting rooms. Insufficient means to pay the rent, conflicts with landlords and poor safety were some of them. This forced many girls to abandon high school before graduating. If there’s one thing to recall from the development basic course, it is that we do not need women to get less education. The opposite, and lots of it. So ODE raised the problem in Bilanga with Eriks. They agreed to build a centre that would provide housing for girls who came a long way to go to Bilanga’s high School. And here it is.
Around 40 girls live here during the semester, in a safe and suitable environment to study in. The centre is run in tight cooperation with a parental organisation, which has payed a part of the construction and continues to pay a part of operational costs. The municipality is naturally also involved as a key partner. There’s been a tremendous increase in school enrolment in the last 20 years in Burkina, but that is mainly true for elementary school. High school enrolment remains feeble, especially for girls. I will get back to that later on.