Please join FAVL for a small reception to launch and celebrate publication of student books from the Reading West Africa 2010 program. We have a selection of 28 books that will be printed and distributed to village libraries in Burkina Faso where students do service learning.
Faculty in the French Dept. donated significant volunteer hours in the library-provided educational technology room, dedicated this year to the book production/editing process.
The reception is Tuesday, April 26, 4:30 - 6:00 p.m. in the Martin Room in the library at Santa Clara University.
Trust me, the books are excellent, with stunning photos! You might even want to buy some.
Information about the Reading West Africa program is here:
Can Africa really be this bad? That's the reaction of myself and fellow FAVL board members... we read Graceland, by Chris Abani, and discussed the hour before our monthly board meeting. We agreed the novel is really interesting, but flawed in many ways.
The subject matter, a grim coming of age story, is truly horrifying. At some points the book reads like a litany of human depravity (organ harvesting, rape, torture, killing of a son). Tt reminded me of Arlo Guthrie's famous Thanksgiving Day song Alice's Restaurant, where he ends up in jail with... well, if you're 1960s literate, you know who I am talking about. But in contrast with Guthrie's sly humor, Abani is dead serious- very little humor actually in the book. It's a frightening portrayal, all the more so for by and large being reasonably accurate. Of course, Nigeria, the setting, is a huge country of a couple hundred million people, and only a tiny fraction experienced the sequence of horrors that constitute the main elements of the plot. But many did experience similar stuff. I see similar lives unfold, occasionally but regularly, in Burkina Faso.
Beyond this stark realism, we weren't too sure about the literary value. There is an abrupt shift to a mix of narrators late in the book, very jarring and seems to serve no purpose. Likewise with a sudden magical realism, at the very end, that makes no sense. The beginning of many chapters starts with recipes by Beatrice, the deceased mother of the main character, Elvis. but the recipes didn't seem to mesh with the story, and if they were intended as a puzzle/clue device, well these three FAVL readers (pretty literate, all of us) didn't see it or feel the desire to untangle the meaning.
Abani may have set out to write a "trashy" novel (at one point he alludes to the trashy fiction Elvie read and still enjoys as a child). In that case, the novel might be read on a different level, as a kind of Toni Morrison-style blockbuster saga where readers will find themselves and their history. Part of me says that the market test then is the only relevant one... but I can;t believe the novel sells well in Nigeria, though I could be wrong.
Abani seems like a amazing individual, so while I am somewhat negative on the book (it just has too many flaws to be highly recommended) I did read it through over about four days, and it kept my interest. I am looking forward to reading more stuff, hopefully more coherent, by Abani.
The last several weeks have seen significant unrest in Burkina Faso. Students started demonstrating in February, after a secondary school student, Justin Zongo, was arrested in Koudougou and died while in detention. His arrest was, apparently, a very banal affair involving a female classmate who happened to be the girlfriend of a police officer; so many suspected police brutality. Civil society in Burkina Faso has been fighting a long fight against impunity, and the Justin Zongo affair touched a raw nerve (perhaps because his family name is the same as celebrated journalist Norbert Zongo, murdered by the military and Compaoré regime in 1998). Secondary students all over the country went on targeted rampages, against police stations and government offices.
The demonstrations and rioting were very political. The regime, to its credit, did not respond with very much force. But that "civil" response, however, seems to have spurred other, more unruly elements to see weakness. Military garrisons around the country started rioting themselves, again in a fairly political way, targeting residences of government officials and government buildings. Finally, on Friday, the elite presidential guard went on a rampage, this time carrying out a fair amount of looting. The merchants of Ouagadougou, fed up, themselves rioted today and destroyed several government buildings.
President Blaise Compaoré has sacked the chief of army staff and the government (Burkina Faso has a ministerial government that serves at the pleasure of the President and the ruling party). President Compaoré, who has ruled since 1983 (at first as co-ruler with Thomas Sankara, who was killed in 1987) faces a serious challenge to his regime. The outcome is now down to the micro-politics of Burkinabe society, and the highly unpredictable outcome of interactions among the 2,000-3,000 officers of the armed forces. Civil society, however, is far stronger than in was in 1987. As in Europe in the 1700s, a growing bourgeoisie is ready to tell those with weapons that if they want to continue to rule, they have to make concessions.
Transparency and accountability are seen now, vividly, to be more than buzzwords. Without them, 20 years of moderate economic progress, increases in schooling, refinement of institutions for enabling investment.... all will vanish overnight, lives may be lost, infrastructure destroyed. Five of Burkina Faso's West African neighbors have gone through this awful decline: Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea, Niger and Sierra Leone.
I am hopeful that Burkina Faso will weather the crisis. The country has several good institutions: a very stable traditional ruling class, in the form of the Mossi kingdoms; a tradtion of ethnic and religious tolerance that seems impermeable to animosities that can be stoked by spoiler politicians; a sense that the political elite understands the lessons of the five neighbors, and won't risk chaos; a lively free press that is keeping the citizenry pretty well-informed; a small but active segment of the judiciary that tries its best to act as counterweight to the regime; a large class of professional former government officials- President Compaoré liked to cycle through government every five years or so, so there is a lot of "dispersed expertise."
I will be watching events unfold. For now FAVL staff and volunteers in Burkina Faso are all safe and do not appear to be significantly affected by the unrest. Villages are usually the safest place to be in troubling times.
FAVL Ouagadougou coordinator offers the following simple guide...
Éléments pour réussir un rapport sur une activité menée
Quand je fais un rapport d'activité, je dois avoir à l'esprit que des personnes le liront. Et, si mon rapport est intéressant ces voudront bien le partager avec d'autre personnes. J'ai donc tout intérêt à ce que le rapport soit bien fait. Lorsque je fais une activité donnée et que je veux en parler dans un rapport, je dois faire ressortir les éléments suivants :
1 - Qu'elle est cette activité? (jeu de scrabble, lecture guidée, conte, etc.)
2 - Quand l'ai-je fais (la date, évidemment)
3 - Pourquoi l'ai-je choisi ? (qu'est-ce qui me motive à faire cette activité avec les enfants ?)
4 - Quel peut être son intérêt pour les enfants ?
5 - Comment ai-je fais l'activité en question ?
6 - Quel intérêt les enfants ont-ils accordé à l'activité ? (comment ont-ils réagi?)
7 - Qu'est ce que j'en pense en tant que bibliothécaire ?
Voici un exemple très simple où j'ai numéroté les différentes parties :
Ce mois-ci, j'ai particulièrement mis l'accent sur la lecture de conte (1). Pour ceci j'ai choisi de travailler avec le recueil de contes intitulé « La Brousse et la Savane racontent» de l'auteur Souleymane Djigo Diop. Le jeudi 14 avril (2), j'ai animé une séance avec ce recueil dont la plupart des contes est facile à comprendre et ceux-ci mettent en scène des animaux de la brousse, bien connus des enfants (3). Il y a un conte ou apparaît Leuk le lièvre et Bouki l'hyène, qui se retrouvent en danger de mort face au lutin lutteur. Ces personnages sont présents dans beaucoup de contes africains et suscitent généralement de l'intérêt auprès des enfants. (4) J'ai pu le remarqué chaque fois que je leur lis ce genre de contes. C'est pourquoi j'ai lu ce conte à un groupe de 10 enfants. Comme ce conte est plein de suspenses, il a particulièrement captivé l'attention des enfants.(5) Pour inciter la participation de ceux-ci, j'ai fais la lecture inachevée car me suis arrêté aux trois quart du texte. J'ai ensuite demandé aux enfants de deviner la suite. Ceux qui ont pu imaginer la suite de l'histoire, étaient tous convaincus que que Leuk réussirait à se tirer d'affaire. Ce qui était exact ! Leuk avec sa ruse légendaire a réussi à convaincre le lutin de lui laisser la vie sauve. Tandis que Bouki, reconnu comme un personnage stupide, a dut payer pour son imprudence. (6) En tant que bibliothécaire, je crois que ce livre est un bon instrument pour animer une séance de contes car les histoires sont très intéressantes, faciles à lire, donne le goût à la lecture et amusent beaucoup les enfants. (7) Elisée Saré, bibliothèque de...
1. utilisez un langage simple
2. vérifiez le sens des mots que vous utilisez dans le dictionnaire
3. relisez votre rapport avant de l'envoyer pour desceller les fautes et les corriger
4. signez votre rapport
Les 16 livres de la collection "Petites mains" reçus nous ont permis de faire des séances d'animations dans nos bibliothèques. Il faut noter qu'à l'ouverture du paquet j'étais touché de voir des livres transportables partout et qui répondent aux besoins des enfants qui aiment la lecture. Avec un français très simple, de courtes phrases et des illustrations bien faites. Ceci ma poussé à programmer des séances de lecture avec les enfants aux seins des bibliothèques pour les enfants moyens en lecture enfin de leur donner le goût de la lecture. La première séance a eu la participation de 17 enfants du primaire et a eu lieu sous le hangar de la bibliothèque de Béréba. Avant de finir la distribution tous les enfants étaient concentrés à la lecture tellement ils étaient impressionnés par la forme des livres. Chaque enfant a pu lire avec moins de fautes le livre choisi, avec satisfaction. Ils étaient fière de pouvoir faire chacun un petit résumé. Les livres avec pour titres Le zèbre et le crocodile et Les devinettes sont ceux que les enfants ont appréciés ce jour compte tenu de leur contenu aussi simple à comprendre. Ali Kafando (un lecteur), depuis ce jour est devenu un de nos fidèles lecteurs, car ce jour même, il a pu lire 6 livres. Depuis lors les enfants viennent pour consulter ces livres. Pour moi cette collection attire les enfants à la lecture.
Sanou Dounko (animateur, Amis des Bibliothèques de Villages / FAVL)
After the now 7 months that I've been working in Ouaga, I can say that one of the biggest lessons I've come to learn and understand, especially in the world of development, is the power of networking. I know that I've written about this before, but I truly feel it bears repeating. It's just so true! Last night's events were just more proof to me of how socializing and networking is key.
A while back we had a not-so-great presentation (meaning it never happened) to the Ouagadougou Expatriate Association. Despite this, an OEA member contacted us soon after, expressing interest in FAVL and the work we do in Burkina. This led to a dinner party invitation, which resulted in another guest at the party donating 60,000 cfa ($130) to FAVL!
Last night this same OEA member invited Charley and I to her house, along with about 7 other guests, for dinner. People there asked numerous questions about FAVL and expressed a lot of interest in the organization's work. When the guests expressing interest are high-up embassy personnel and people who work for large organizations including UNICEF...this is definite plus.
I have been meeting all kinds of people from all lines of work; from rich expats working for lucrative companies and don't speak a lick of French to a missionary couple who have been here for 12 years, speak the local language fluently and live in conditions that even Peace Corps volunteers would complain about. After last night's dinner party, I chuckled to myself on the bike ride home, realizing that I would probably never again find myself at a dinner party where all of the guests (asides from Charley) are Swedish.
Between the parties, the delicious foods, the tasty wines, the meeting of truly diverse people....networking continues to be a lot of fun and of great benefit to FAVL.
We had our first "activity session" with JHS Form 1 kids tonight. These classes are focusing on the Junior Graphic Newspaper/Current Events, and it went REALLY well. We're excited to continue the next 3 weeks, and more to come on that. Also, things seem to be working for our first week of phonics-focused mini-camp at Gowrie. They've learned short vowels and we just started long vowels ("magic e", or as we called him, "Boss E"). We'll see what they
retained over the weekend...
We had the opportunity to visit the 7 FAVL village libraries in Burkina Faso this past week. Our general impression of the Burkina libraries was overwhelmingly positive. Each librarian diligently showed us every book section and cahier (record book). We were particularly impressed by the high level of organization at the libraries, with a cahier for subscribers, lost or damaged books, checked out books, and detailed notes on activities. In contrast to the frustrating task of locating the correct inventory in libraries in Ghana (and knowing or rather NOT knowing which books were checked out/removed for damage, etc), this was a pleasant surprise and something to aspire to.
The librarians all seemed very proud of their libraries and the spaces were very neat and orderly at the time we visited
Additionally, the decorations in each library were fantastic, particularly in Koumbia with the paintings from a local artist and large masks. There were also abundant homemade decorations that Dounko taught us how to make. Hopefully we can make some of these with the kids in Ghana when we return.
As for library activities, we had the opportunity to take part in and listen to a few. The children really seemed to like the contes we heard from both the librarians and Dounko at Karaba and Dimikuy. Dounko is super animated in storytelling, and he should keep it up. It was great to see how much the kids loved him. We liked that Burkina has an "animateur"/activities coordinator whose sole responsibility is to run activities at the libraries. A big personality like Dounko's seems to be a good way to attract children to the library. The librarians themselves were a bit less animated in their story telling, but still elicited a good reaction from the kids. We also enjoyed hearing the riddles or "devinettes" and seeing games such as alphabet hopscotch (hop on a letter and say a word that starts with that letter). At Boni and Dimikuy, we were able to teach the children and librarians the Hokey Pokey (or "Hougie Bougie") en Francais! They seemed to like it a lot.
We were very impressed with the reading level and comprehension of the students present at Douhoun library's activities. They seemed well beyond anything we've encountered for that age group in Ghana (CM1 or 2 level). However upon further reflection and conversations with Charley, this has not been experienced by other visitors to the libraries. It was a very small group of students, and we're not sure how anomalous this was but we were surely impressed.
The libraries in Burkina Faso were open about 20 hrs per week and often had two librarians or assistants sharing the responsibility. This is very different from the system in Ghana, but it appears to work well for the libraries in Burkina. It is clear they are able to accomplish a lot even with this small amount of time.
There was a large ratio of adult to children's books at the libraries. Again, in contrast, the opposite tends to be true in the Ghanaian libraries. We imagine there may be less French children's material available in general?