Yesterday I spent six and a half hours in a round table meeting with all possible community partners of the Linguere High School. It started out extremely well - the student government had put together a great (albeit rather dramatic - can a school really be in agony?) presentation about the problems facing the school and what they would like to do to change things. Then community member after community member came up to pledge their association’s support - the gendarmes are giving 100,000 CFA, the Association for the Development of Women is giving a ton of cement, etc. Then this one man comes up and goes, “Well, this is great and all, but why don’t we just have an NGO build us an entirely new school? That’s what they’re there for.”
He’s partly right. There are plenty of NGOs whose sole mission is school construction. But the attitude of “oh, we could do this ourselves but why bother because an NGO could do it for us” is one of the biggest obstacles that we come across in the Peace Corps. Many NGOs here provide resources of the monetary sort, while we are primarily here to work on capacity-building, and a lot of people have trouble understanding that. Not to mention that when a community has the motivation and capabilities to do a project themselves, I have a huge problem with them taking resources from an NGO that could be building a school for a community that has no resources whatsoever. (All of this rant glossing over the fact that the school is supposed to be a governmental project anyways, but the administrations of both the previous and current presidents have done nothing to fix things.)
Luckily, I think those who are most involved with the project, including Ngouille Sec (pictured above) and her sister Jamma, are pretty set on getting things done themselves. If everything goes well, by next October when classes start up for the fall 2013 semester, the high school will have at least two new classrooms. And that will be very inspiring to see.