Nomadic Kid’s Education in the Sahara

In Uncategorized on May 3, 2006 at 5:42 pm

ReliefWeb Hot meals entice Niger’s nomadic children into school

Read this last week and wanted to comment on it… Been very busy.

Sometimes successfulul positive social change is something like this – just making sure kids get fed. This kind of thing cannot be worked out at the Doha round of WTO negotiations or hashed out between heads of state. But, what we can see from this WFP press release is the success of a small yet effective intervention that doesn’t cost much to implement.

It’s simple economics, really. A family has to eat. If there is no food, the family commits all their resources to securing food. School comes a distant second to survival. If you remove hunger from the equation, at least for the children, you’ve just given thousands and thousands of families the chance to claw their way up the poverty ladder.

I can say from my experience in Niger – the kids in my village really wanted to go to school. They hated feeling marginalized and illiterate – not that they could articulate that, but they could sure feel it and one could easily recognize it.

One of my favorite stories from my Peace Corps service was of my friend Abdou – quite possibly the smartest man I met in Niger. He was my exact age (mid 20’s at that time) and had a wife and young baby. His first child had died of dehydration (bad water sanitation). A Fulani herder and erstwhile businessman, Abdou had never been to school. Peace Corps had been running an adult literacy project in the surrounding area for about 8 years when arrived, and Abdou had retained everything. He could read and write in his native language, Fulfulde. One day, Abdou was in the local market when he was called something equivalent to a redneck in the local language, Zarma. Zarmas (or Djermas) are the majority in Southwestern Niger, while Fulanis are the minority. Abdou quickly won the argument when he whipped out a notebook and pen and asked the Zarma man to write something down. It quickly became apparent the Zarma guy couldn’t read, while Abdou could write down anything he wanted to. He couldn’t wait to tell me this story the day it happenned.

Score one for the power of literacy.


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