2016 Burkina Day 10: Marie Rosine, Brigitte, Léocadie, Jacqueline and Edwige

Day 10: Marie Rosine, Brigitte, Léocadie, Jacqueline and Edwige

16 January 2016

 

Marie wasn’t our only pregnancy. Marie Rosine left university midway through her first year because she was pregnant. But she quickly married, had her daughter Stéphanie and went back to school. She is now in her third and final year for a Licence degree in contemporary literature, which will permit her to teach at the secondary level.

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What’s more, her husband Félix is a school teacher with a salary, so Marie moved up from a home with a dirt floor and no electricity to this cute house with tiled floors and a television.

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I had brought Stéphanie a baby book last year, and this year did so again. She seemed to like it. She’s now two years and three months.

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We were meeting Félix for the first time. He and Marie Rosine seemed well together.

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The University of Koudougou is six months late; the professors are on strike—they haven’t been paid. Last year, someone in administration, they don’t know who, stole 63,000,000 f CFA from the university coffers. Since it’s a state university, everyone is counting on the new government in Ouagadougou to come up with the money to pay the professors and get classes going again.

Marie Rosine hopes to finish in March the school year that should have ended last September. She will take the national exam for government service in October and hope for a lifetime job. I dared to ask if they plan to have more children. “Not for a couple of years,” they said.

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We had awakened this morning to the news of a terrorist attack on the Hotel Splendid in Ouagadougou. I had stayed at the Splendid about five years ago before someone at the French Embassy recommended the Karité Bleu—smaller, cheaper and, I guess, safer. We had left Ouaga the day of the shooting.

E-mails came in from around the world asking about my safety. I was oblivious, as I carried on with my program in Koudougou, 80 km away. Internet connection here is sporadic.

Koudougou is calm, but the entire country is shaken up. Just when things seemed to be settling down after the uprising against Compaore in 2014 and the coup last year, what seems to be a global scourge has shaken the country to its core.

Muslims, Catholics, Protestants and animists live side by side here without tension and intermarry. They voted together last November and elected a new government that is giving everybody hope. Now, with this attack, I fear that Faso will never be the same.

I did not contact the US Embassy about security concerns. I didn’t want to know about them. I preferred to carry on with my program.

Our next stop was Brigitte’s home. I just had her on the phone, and she told me she’s substitute teaching on Ouaga. But we decided to go ahead and see her Mom anyway. A complete stranger in France had offered me a box of her old children’s books; I couldn’t say no. We had them shipped by container and I delivered them to Brigitte’s house. Brigitte is now a primary school teacher after two years of training and I thought she could put them to good use. Marcel helped unpack them.

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Mom told me that Brigitte finished first in her class but did not pass the national exam for government service last October. So she is substitute teaching to stay current until she can take the exam again. She introduced Brigitte’s sister, Germaine, 24, who just passed her baccalaureate exam with a rather low 10.35/20. They were fishing about financial aid. I said if Germaine got her grades up to 12, we’d think about it.

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Brigitte’s Mom, with children’s books, and her sister Germaine.

Several years ago, out of my own pocket, I had financed the purchase of some pigs for Brigitte’s Mom, to help her earn a little money. The pigs are still around, she said, but some of them have an undiagnosed illness and she didn’t have money for a vet. Maybe I should have stayed out of the pig farming business.

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In the afternoon, we went to see Léocadie, who finished nursing school last year. She was still living with her uncle in a new house in a nice hilltop location.

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Léocadie was at home alone with her sister’s daughter. (She’s the one who a couple of years ago boldly told me, “Buy me a watch.” I did.)

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Léocadie took the test for government service in October, but didn’t make it. She’s now making the rounds at the five or six clinics in Koudougou looking for an internship. In the health industry, apparently, they don’t give you an internship unless they have an opening. Then, if you do well, you get a job right away. She showed us her diploma.

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So there’s nothing more we can do for Léocadie but wish her luck with the job hunt.

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Next was Jacqueline, who finished her Licence diploma last November and was waiting to start her Master’s in Environment and Sustainable Development. Since her father died three years ago, I’ve been bringing her mother 100 kg of maize with every visit. I needed a receipt for my taxes, but the vendor couldn’t write. He asked the welder next door, who had a receipt pad but couldn’t write either. So Marcel filled out the receipt form of a welder for a sack of maize. You think the IRS will notice?

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Last year we asked that the 100 kg sack be divided in two to be more manageable. But Marcel said, “No, I can handle it.” 220 pounds—are you sure Marcel? At Jacqueline’s we asked a neighbor to help with the sack. But it was too heavy. As they dragged it out of the trunk, it ripped open. Whoops!

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Jacqueline came to the rescue and swept up just about every kernel from the street.

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The guys then managed to lug the sack into the house.

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After that, Marcel needed a rest.

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Jacqueline her Mom and I then settled down to chat.

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Although she doesn’t yet have her diploma—the University of Koudougou is behind on everything—they did give her an attestation that she sent to ISIG (New Dawn University) in Ouagadougou where she wants to study. Classes start on 25 January. She doesn’t yet know where she will live.

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We have to think fast. Jacqueline’s sister Pélagie is bouncing around Ouaga taking internships and hoping for a job. She moves to a different relative’s home, depending on the internship, because she has no means of transport. Henri, a member of our Board, has been advising Pélagie on her CV and her job hunt. He recently said he would make a donation to buy her a motorbike.

Once Pélagie has a motorbike, she can live anywhere. Why not with her sister near ISIG? I suggested that Jacqueline and Pélagie find a third roommate to make the cost more manageable. Maybe we can pay 2/3 of the rent. An idea to pursue. Jacqueline seemed pleased. “Any questions,” I asked? “Just a thank you,” she replied.

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We then went down the road to Edwige’s house. I had lost track of her and had no idea what she was doing. Her father greeted us at the gate and invited us to sit in the yard.

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Edwige joined us. She said that after consulting Christiane she decided to do a Master’s in Administration and Management at the Free University of Burkina. But she depended on an aunt in Ouaga putting her up. The aunt had applied for a job out of town, and if she got it she was going to give up her apartment.

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The aunt will know about the new job by 25 January. If she gets it, Edwige will be obliged to stay in Koudougou with her parents, in which case she will go back to the institute where she got her Licence degree last year.

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She’s already been accepted at l’ULB, where courses started on 15 January. But they said they would accept her late. So now everything depends on her aunt. It seemed pretty straightforward. We said goodbye to them both.

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I had to stop at a Cyber Café before returning home. My G-mail account was ringing off the hook with messages of concern. But the connection was very slow. It took about three minutes per e-mail. I got through about half of them.

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France

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