My second visit to a rural school outside of Asaita did not involve a 4×4, but rather a horse-drawn carriage known locally as a ‘geri’. I have ridden geris around town a few times, but usually only for short jaunts. This time was a 45mins geri ride each way. The unforeseen reality of this mode of transport was the metal bar digging into my lower back as we bounced along bumpy dirt paths. The geri is good for short trips, but long trips are not so comfortable.
The geri followed the same road as the 4×4 going to Mamole, but pulled off the unpaved road after around 1km. We followed a pathway through a fallow field until we reached a narrow dirt road on the other side of the farm. We bounced along this dirt road for some kilometres and passed through some small Afar villages until we got to the first of two schools on our itinerary.
We were lucky because the geri knew the shortcut through the fallow field, and this allowed us to reach the narrow road that led to Wanis. The previous week visitors the visitors had to walk the last 5kms in because the cart could not get through a flooded part of the road.
Bagusafar Primary School has a student population of 200. There is no electricity, and no library. The setting is very green, and it is easy to forget the school’s proximity to the desert. We dropped off Yitagesu to conduct his teaching practicum observations, had a quick look around and then continued down the narrow path to the next village to visit Wanis Primary School.
Next to the road were traditional Afar homes, known as ‘ari’. The families living in these villages sent their children to the two schools that we visited on this day.
At Wanis school I sat down and had a chat with the Director (Principal) about life at the school.
The challenges faced by the school were similar to those expressed at the other rural schools in the area. There is no electricity. There is no library. There is a teacher’s room that is meant to house teaching resources for the school staff, but the room is used as a dormitory by members of the teaching staff because there is no transportation between the school and Asaita.
Attendance at the school is also a problem. On the day that we visited only about 40% of the students were present. It was a Wednesday, and Tuesday is market day in Asaita, so a lot of families had made the trek into town and had yet to return. Unfortunately, challenges like this abound for the people in this locale, and each challenge takes up quite a bit of time. Logistical challenges are coupled with the lack of value place on education by the local people. Getting a job at the sugar plantation that is opening up here is not an ambition held by many. Surviving in
tough conditions takes priority. Nevertheless, the school perseveres and slow progress is made.
Solomon and Ousman were the College Instructors that I accompanied to Wanis. They interviewed the student teachers and their school supervisors, as well as observing classes taught by College students. The College students had to live at the school for their month long placements. There are no shops within 10kms. There is a tap with water, but the groundwater in the area is too salty to drink. This left the students with river water to use for their cooking and drinking. This cannot be good for them.
We returned to Asaita in the geri we had come in. It was lucky that he had waited for us because otherwise it would have been a long walk back.
- Mamole Primary School visit – April 2012 (morenewsfromafar.wordpress.com)