Monday, 1 October 2012

Monday 1st October – the difficulties the school faces

Yesterday evening as we teachers sat outside the classrooms, supervising the boarders’ study time as we do every evening, Osman told me about the difficulties the school faces.  I had mentioned the lack of scientific equipment and computers to him.  He said that, yes, this was a major problem.  However, the worst is the constant struggle to keep the students physically healthy.  He said that if there is any way I can find of getting outside help it would be greatly appreciated.

When Osman became headteacher the school expected to send around 10 students a day to hospital due to malaria, drinking contaminated water or eating bad food.  There was no plumbing for waste water (including the toilets) so that it all drained into the ground making for wet and insanitary conditions, ideal for mosquitoes to breed.  The kitchens were old, dirty, unventilated and had no fans.  The dining tables were filthy. 
Zeer in their new contamination free shed
All these problems have been rectified.  The ‘zeer’ (traditional earthenware pots containing water) are now in a covered area to avoid contamination, with pipes leading to drinking water taps.  The water still comes direct from the Nile, but this is a problem which is expected to change soon because the government is currently building a water treatment plant for the town.  Even so, it is now much rarer to send students to hospital for this reason.  The kitchens have been re-decorated, fans installed and new dining tables (regularly cleaned) purchased.
Girls drink at the drinking water taps
The next headache is that there is insufficient water for the size of the school.  Osman has found that the work needed to increase the water supply will cost S£20,000 (UK£2,800 or US$4,534) which is a very daunting amount in a rural third world town such as Ed Damer. 

Because of the political relationships with the outside world including US sanctions, and the relentlessly bad press Sudan receives in the western media, there are difficulties getting outside help.  However, no matter what a country’s politics, it is deeply unjust that the children should suffer. 
The girls at Ed Damer High School work in bare classrooms sitting on uncomfortable broken chairs at rickety desks, often three students to a small desk.  As I said before, there is no scientific equipment or access to computers.  All work is therefore textbook or blackboard-based. 
Yet in spite of all the problems of their environment, students here are incredibly positive, cheerful and hardworking.  It is rare to see a glum face.  Again and again they tell me how they want to become doctors or travel abroad and see the world. 
Today, the English exam was in progress.  There is one blind girl at the school.  In order for her to sit her exams, a teacher has to read out the questions and scribe the answers for her in a room with constant interruptions.  In a just world this girl should have the same access to Braille resources as her UK peers, and of course the same opportunities.
I think the school does a terrific and very conscientious job under difficult circumstances.  Time for some help from elsewhere, don’t you think?

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