2017 Day 15 & 16: Ouagadougou

Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 January 2017

Abdoulaye made good time; we were back in Ouagadougou in under two hours.

My favorite guesthouse, the Karite? Bleu, had been booked solid at the beginning of January, but I was able to get a room for the rest of my stay starting today. The garden is shaded and reposing.

I had a light afternoon planned, mainly a meeting with Christiane to review my trip thus far. But first we took a run out to the University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (USTA). Three of our beneficiaries are there—Rita in medicine and Josiane and Be?ne?dicte in law. I wanted a quick read on how they were doing. We started with a meeting with Mrs. Kalmogho at the law school office. She had a winning smile.

She had good news and bad news. The good news was that Josiane had finished her first year of law with no problem and was doing well in her second year. (At USTA, a third of the freshman class in law flunks out.) The bad news concerned Be?ne?dicte. She passed only two out of six units in her second semester last year and went down in flames. We refused to finance a repeat year for her, so her mother took out a loan. We said if she passes her repeat year, we would resume funding. But she doesn’t seem to be doing well this year either. It looks like law was a bad choice for her.

We then went to the school of medicine, where Rita is in her sixth year. She has a full government scholarship and has consistently had a grade average of about 16/20—super high. We give her 100,000 f CFA (about $150) a year to help her with her living expenses. Mrs. Fatou Traore? briefed us on Rita’s performance. The school requires a minimum grade of 10 in each course; Rita’s grades ranged from 11.0 to 17.4. This year, she will have to do an internship of 45 days in a bush hospital. Her 7th and last year will be spent full time in a hospital.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon in Christiane’s office. Christiane is a management consultant and runs our affairs here like a tight ship.

We had a setback last year when Christiane’s assistant, whom we paid three days a week, found a full time job. While Christiane sorts through resume?s, she recruited Christine to help as an intern.


Christiane and I reviewed the dossier of all 26 young women whom we help this year. She pointed out how we might have done things differently to save money—for example, by insisting that some go to public university instead of private, or stay at home in Koudougou instead of going to Ouaga. She also explained a government aid program for students in public schools. Every year we learn something new.

The next day, we went to see another Josiane; this one finished her nursing degree in 2015. She has not yet found a job, but she seems to have found real happiness. Her husband, Alfa Sankara, is a male nurse and his family is relatively well off. She and Alfa have a six-month old daughter, Christelle Mae?lise.

Josiane didn’t pass the national test for government work in 2015. She took it again last December and doesn’t know the results yet. If she doesn’t pass this time, she will look for a job in the private sector, probably at the Chithra medical facility where she did an internship.

I asked her if her husband was related to Thomas Sankara.

Thomas Sankara’s memory is alive today, as people recall fondly his radical policies as President from 1983 to 1987. He redistributed land to raise food production, built schools and clinics, advocated women’s rights, appointing women to his cabinet and opposing cutting, refused foreign aid from France and the IMF/World Bank, fought to reduce the national debt, launched an ambitious vaccination program for children and renamed the country, the former Upper Volta, Burkina Faso (“Land of the Upright”). He was anti-imperialist and became known as Africa’s Che Guevara. He was assassinated, and foreign governments are suspected of being behind it. Josiane answered my question: “Yes, he was Alfa’s uncle, but we don’t talk about it.”

I held Christelle in my arms and was so happy that she wasn’t afraid of my white, ugly face.

We then returned to Saint Thomas Aquinas University to see our medical student, Rita. We met in the library.

Rita is calm, self-assured and positive; she’s going to make a good doctor. She’s been a real pleasure for us to help. We sat at a table in the entry corridor.

She said that her Government grant was increased this year and will go up again next year, when she will spend her entire school year assigned to a hospital. “Do you still need our help,” I asked? “No,” she replied candidly. “My only problem will be if the Government pays late, which usually happens.” I told her that we will set aside the 100,000 f CFA that we normally give her, and she can draw on it as a loan, if she needs to. She was happy with that.

We now had to track down Elsa, the last of four candidates proposed to us by Solidarite?. We had met three of them in Koudougou, but Elsa lives in Ouaga. We found her school, the Lyce?e Mixte de Gounghin.

In the Office, Mme Beloum told us that Elsa had an average last year of over 11/20, which is strong. She called Elsa in to join us. She told me that she likes science best and would like to be a pharmacist.

Her classes for the morning were over, so she led us home on her bicycle to meet her Mom.

Her mother, Le?onie, told us that she is a nurse. Her husband has been unemployed since 1994 and last year had a stroke.

Elsa will go for a government grant to study pharmacy, but she would have to finish this year with a 12.5 average. Pretty high. If she doesn’t make it, she will need our support. She seemed serious.

Our last appointment for the day was with the Congo family, far from the center. Mme. Congo is Christiane’s cleaning lady. Last year, Christiane proposed that we help Isabelle Congo, her daughter. We voted a budget for her, but then were informed that she had died—no explanation. This year, Christiane proposed helping another daughter, Ruth.

Abdulaye drove me to the ends of the earth to find the Congo household. It was in a poor neighbourhood.

We sat in the yard with Ruth (center), one of her sisters and her Mom. Ruth dropped out of school when she got pregnant. Her Mom is holding two-month-old Abdelatif.

Ruth wants to go to nursing school. Without her baccalaureate, she can still be admitted if she passes an entry exam. She would need a bicycle. We counted six kilometres of unpaved road and then 25 kilometres from there into the city. 70 kilometres a day by bike? “I can do it,” she said. I asked about Isabelle. “We don’t know why she died; all we know is that she had a headache.” I guess when you’re poor, you can die of a headache. Some children looked on.

I asked if I could have a peak inside their home. “Sure.” Pretty bleak.

Ruth and her Mom were counting on us.

I guess Abdelatif was too.


Email: info@chanceforchangecharity.org