Monday, October 25, 2010

“Problems” we created

Every program has an effect. Every effort you put out has some type of return, expected or not. Often we try to predict and plan for these effects. We aspire for them to all be positive, but are also aware that we cannot control everything and sometimes our best efforts bring about other issues that we hadn’t considered. As we work longer in development we learn from each project and learn to better predict these changes and needs.

Our school feeding program in Tagentassou, as you read in my previous blog, is a huge success out in this rural village of Niger. We have doubled school population and all these children are being fed and their parents are sending them to school. Yay!

However- there are some new issues now. Before- this was a two room schoolhouse with two teachers and two classes offered. When the program expanded right off the bat for year one they finished the construction (with government support) for the third classroom and got a third teacher hired to help with the influx of students and they taught three classes. All three classes are in primary school. It is sort of like teaching Grade 1, 3 and 5 each year. Well- now there are even MORE students in school. Last year they built a straw school room outside and got a few extra desks. These desks are all FULL, the straw structure is FULL. And yet there are still more kids coming.

They petitioned the government to send out a fourth teacher and much to their joy this teacher has arrived. But where does she teach? The Director showed us where the community was weaving mats and putting together some money to be able to construct another straw structure like you see below. The mats are now beginning to pile up as they plan for another structure.


Do you see this picture below? This is the grade three/four split class. It is overflowing with children, more than 80 of them, all below one straw structure with three to a desk and many more sitting on the ground in the middle of the group. As the sun moves in the sky some of those desks end up in the sun and blazing hot so those kids go join the group in the middle.


The villagers are providing another straw structure and the government has provided another teacher. What they need are books. For the first time EVER this school is going to offer 4 separate grade classes. For this new grade (the equivalent of Grade 4 I believe) they have no books at all. No student books, no teachers guides or anything. This is new for them. They need 4 teachers guides for 4 subjects and 40 copies each (ideally although they are very used to sharing books) for 3 subjects of Math, reading and writing. Total costs for all the books is around $500.

Do you see these books below on one desk? 4 kids share this bench and these are their books. In reality I should say these are their half books. These are normal lined page notebooks that have been cut in half horizontally, so each child has one short booklet to use to write for their classes.


The next concern is where do the children sit? The school needs another 20 or so of these locally made long bench desks, which sit 3 children each. Last year when we built them some they cost $50 per desk. Paul thinks he can build them cheaper with his group of apprentices, but it is time he lacks! Besides, we also do want to support the local economy. Where else in the world can you get a desk for three kids for $50?


Finally a third need we came to realize over the summer was for better hygiene and water facilities. Until recently, all the kids in the school would still wander off into the bush outside the school to go to the toilet. Not only did this take time out of their studies, it is clearly unsanitary. So thankfully we were able to get some hygiene funding as part of our Food Aid grant from Canadian Food Grains Bank and CIDA and we are currently in the process of building a 4 stall latrine for the school. YAY!

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We were also able to run some lines from their well through an existing garden pump to bring a water tap right up in front of the school. The kids use this to pull their drinking water and wash their hands, and the women now have close access to water for cooking. A small thing with a big impact!



More children is wonderful, but we still want to try to help them get a quality instruction and of course materials do play at least some part in that education!

If you are interested in partnering with us to help meet some of these needs, please let me know. Funds can be directed to the “Niger- McIver Work Special” for those of you who know how to do that. Please email with any questions at


Judy said...

I'm interested! How do I email you?

Chantelle said...

Oh sorry forgot to add that :)
you can email me at: