The Sex Ed Club does 8 Mars right

International Women’s Day is: A global  holiday to recognize women’s achievements and to encourage gender parity.

International Women’s Day, or 8 Mars, is considered such a big deal in Burkina that everyone has the day off, thus making it a perfect day to round up the students and talk about gender equality, women’s empowerment, and in my case, how safe sex relates to it all.

Léa addresses the students like a boss
 


So a few weeks ago Léa and I decided that we were going to organize 4 teams of girls, between the public and private school, so they could play soccer (which is usually a male dominate sport in Burkina) and learn about family planning. 



Léa and I frequently preach the importance of using condoms to guard against unwanted pregnancy and sexual infection transmission, we even managed to talk about it during our menstrual health session, but today we mixed it up by tying in other contraceptive methods, and getting the students more involved in presentations. 

Two students show how to properly put on and take off a condom

Before and after a few rousing games of soccer students presented on all the methods of contraception, and talked about the benefits of family planning, and how safe sex and family planning can empower women.

Student presenter shows off an example of birth control pills

Ode to the Bush Taxi*

Oh bush taxi

With doors that don’t fully close, Windows that rattle, and seats that move like 4D rides at Disney


Oh bush taxi

Some bright, some white, and everywhere in sight

I love and hate your convenience

Your fine prices that attract the masses

And cram your isles so no one new passes

Oh bush taxi

Some so clean, others not so pristine

Fancy paint job

Not all the drivers mean.

Oh bush taxi

Roof stacked so high with things it’s defying gravity

So much so that foreigners think it a form of depravity

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How many men does it take to fix a bush taxi? All of them. 

Oh bush taxi

You’re filled with dust, people and animals alike.

That’s right

Don’t step on your neighbors chicken or you’ll get a kicken

Man leaning over my back row seat while his rear hangs out the back door

Oh bush taxi

You ferry me too and fro

How could I possibly be your foe

You bump, you bound, you’re everywhere to be found

Some painted, some white, some oh so bright

Oh bush taxi

Is that driver drinking beer?

Are those people hanging onto your rear? Without fear?

A double: back door open and a man hanging on the back

Oh bush taxi

When you break down you make me frown

But I’ll wait

I mean, since I paid for this date.

*Written for a bush taxi, on a bush taxi

The Future is now: Update 

Since getting computers in November the students at my school have been taking the fullest advantage of them possible. Though we still don’t have electricity, students can do research, and get a block of instruction on information technology from the Headmaster on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s; while the computers run on a generator.

The Headmaster giving some instruction on how to save a document in Word.
Under class-men checking out the setup
Upper class-men working on a research paper
Upper class-man doing some research on development in Burkina Faso

My Biggest Fans aka The Small Council

I call this lovely group of girls my “Small Council,” or my “Biggest fans,” as a joke to my friends and family back home.

This group of 15-20 little ladies (depending on the day) love to come over to my house to paint their finger nails, color, and have photo shoots.

They all have a fondness for layering as many different colors of polish as possible on their nails- I’m often judged harshly for only using one or two colors- and like to help me do my dishes- which I apparently don’t do correctly according to them.

Time with them is always an overwhelming joy. 

Students say the darnedest things…

Me: I’m tired of more than half of you showing up to my class late. I’m going to start checking the homework in the first 10 minutes of class so if you aren’t here on time you get a zero on the homework. 

The class: *noises of discontent* 

Me: Hey if I can wake up at 6 a.m., get ready, and bike here for class so can you. 

One student: But Misses you get here too early!

Me: *Filled with thinly controlled fury* Uh I get here on time. You know, because class starts at 7 a.m. and not 7:30 or 7:45. You were in my class last year; you know how I work. Get here on time or your grade will suffer.

The class: *Giggling at my verbal tirade* 

Let’s Talk Safe Sex

They say that education is the key to success.

Learn to read, write, finish high school, maybe go to college, and then get a good job to support yourself and maybe a family.

But what happens when a young girl, shooting for the future that an education can give her, gets pregnant? Or she, or her partner, contract a sexually transmitted disease?

These are the few sex related incidents that we are trying to combat at my school, with the help of my friend Lea (a gym teacher), a few health/science teachers, the school Principle, and loads of willing student participants, by starting up a sexual health and wellness club with the public and private high schools.

Lea brought the idea of starting a Youth Club to me after we attended a Let Girls Learn training last year. However, we were unable to get the club started until this year.
During our first club meeting Lea had the students write out what they believed to be the reasons that, “…girls are unable to finish school.” The responses for the students was both enlightening and saddening.

After this initial info meeting, Lea and I read up on the students responses to see if there was anything we knew we could address in sessions about safe sex.

From there we decided that it would great to mix some friendly competition with out Sex Ed sessions, in order to entice the students.

On a sunny Saturday morning over 100 students (between two schools) showed up for our first club meeting!

We started off by having 75 meter races for boys and girls, then took a break to do a brief overview of the menstrual cycle, then go in depth about the male and female condom. The session was led by two science teachers, one from my school and one from the private school that also attended.

After the sex ed session we held a distance race before closing out the morning.

The second club meeting took place at the private school, as the public school is currently on strike. There we once again focused on contraceptives, but with a special focus on why people don’t use them and what to do when your partner doesn’t want to use a condom.

Condom demo: Showing that a man saying he is “too big” for the condom is impossible

Next trimester (which starts mid-January) we will be continuing with the club, and will hopefully be going in depth about the menstural cycle and making reusable pads!

End of Trimester (1) Thoughts

7th graders putting themselves in order from zero to ten

Teaching is hard. Teaching in Burkina Faso in (to my standards) over crowded classrooms, is even harder. 

There has been no question of that since I started teaching for the first time last year. 

Classroom are crowded; students are sitting 3 to a bench. There is no electricity (which will hopefully change soon), and many students are living here on their own in order to attend because my school is the only public school serving several villages- imagine a village full of unsupervised teens managing their own lives!

Discipline in a class of 50 or more is difficult, and not a day goes by that I’m not telling a child to stop talking while I’m teaching, stop hitting, and to sit down and pay attention. 

However, I love these kids. Not every day all day- but these are my kids and I love them.

There are several times when I’ve been freshly exposed to this affection for the hundreds of kids I’ve taugh. For one, when I swelled with pride hearing from the 9th grade English teacher that some of my kids from 8th grade last year are fantastic in English this year. He pointed out two of my best students (one boy and one girl) and I was not surprised that they are phenomenal but was also so proud. I felt even more when I ran into one of those students at market, told her I heard great things about her, and she broke into a huge smile. 

Second, when I got a phone call from a student I spent practicing English with over the summer, who is now going to school in Ouaga, that he took an entry exam and got an amazing score. He also calls me periodically just to say hello and tell me he’s doing well in English class- he got a 90% on his last test. 

And I feel it when my students from last year great me enthusiastically at school and around town. 

So yes, these little (sometimes) monsters get on my nerves, make me upset, and have given me a headache or two but they are so very intelligent, are overcoming great odds to achieve, and will always be my kids. 

I wish them all the luck in the world. 

It’s Laundry Day!

Laundry day is my least favorite day of the week, hands down.
Now I was never a huge fan even when I had access to a washer and dryer but now I have to do it all by hand and it’s quite tiresome.

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My professional set up: Including a wash cycle (with a wash board) and two rinse cycles

Though there are some volunteers who have women in village who wash their laundry for them I still do mine myself, not because I haven’t had any luck finding anyone to do it but I was having trouble finding someone who would let me pay them! Everyone I asked said they would do it for free because I was a volunteer, which is super nice of them really.

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My neighbors puppy being less than helpful

 

In hot season I have to get up early to get started washing my clothes to avoid doing so in the sweltering heat. By the time I’m finished it’s warm enough for everything to dry within an hour or two. However, in rainy season it can take days for clothes to dry properly.

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The dryer

It’s very easy for me to allow clothes to build up because I don’t want to wash them, but when I finally do listening to pod casts or calling other volunteers while I’m washing helps the time pass faster. However, I really look forward to being able to use a washer and dryer again.

The Future is Now: 10 Computers Later

After several busy months of (secretly) working with the Peace Corps, and my community ,the most amazing thing has happened- my school has been gifted 10 computers!

 

The project has been in the works since last May, when the Peace Corps selected 6 villages to receive 10 computers each. My site was selected because we are so isolated, thus students have a difficult time getting their hands on this type of technology. Now we will be able to start teaching computer literacy classes at my school, once the electricity arrives of course, in order to better prepare students for our modern word- especially those who plan to go to University.

 

 

Because this was such a huge deal for my community we had a little ceremony to celebrate their arrival. Students helped to unload the equipment while all of the professors, the Headmaster, the Chief of the Village, the Parent-Teacher Association, and the Mayor looked on (and helped set up).

During the ceremony students got to peek in and take a look at their new computers, the Headmaster showed us his mastery of Word Processor, and the Chief of the village gave some lovely benedictions for the school, the youths, and the Peace Corps.

Now that we are all set up everyone is anticipating the arrival of electricity (which has slowly been making its way to the farthest corners of the village). Once that happens my village will be considered a town before we know it!

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From the Headmaster: All our thanks to the Peace Corps which has kindly offered us these gifts

Students say the darnedest things…

*Catches a student looking at another students paper during a test*

Me: What did I say about looking at someone else’s paper during the test?

Student: Not to do it but Misses I wasn’t looking at his paper I was asking what was number five.

Me: So you weren’t looking for the answers, you were just asking for them? Which I said is also cheating.

Student: …oh.

Me: *Making a face of complete disbelief.*