Thursday, October 25, 2007

Troubled heart, sore head

Rasano Primary School is on the edge of Nyungwe Forest, right next to the Burundi border. A recent visit produced the frequent combination of a troubled heart and a sore head. The troubled heart comes from seeing so many people in dire poverty, the sore head comes from thinking about solutions or remedies. Perhaps “palliatives” or even only “appropriate course of action” would better describe what is within our capabilities.
It doesn’t take long to identify the main problem at the school, as the following statistics on the school roll show.
P1 – 385
P2 - 353
P3 – 371
P4 – 264
P5 – 145
P6 - 44
The dropout rate at p4, when the children start to stay all day at school, is huge and much more of a problem than we have found anywhere else. All the local people at the committee meeting were convinced that the solution would be to provide food at lunchtime. Some felt that the whole school (1200 pupils!) should be fed, but we managed to convince them that we could and should only provide an incentive for the seniors. The obvious difficulties are there : finding finance and sustaining it, how to manage a programme so far away from Kamembe, ensuring that only the children are fed and getting parents to value education and not just free food.
We have agreed to look at how we can do it, but oh how often “we will discuss it” is remembered as “you promised”! There are some months of grace before the start of term in January and porridge (Rwandan, not Scottish) seems as if it might be a possibility.

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