C.E.G. Bougabou – Our second big challenge
In fall 2011, Education Togo initiated its second project: the development of a school in Bougabou. The goal was to start building a school by December 2011, which should provide secondary education for 160 children from Bougabou and 6 neighbouring villages. In May 2012, the school, consisting of 4 classrooms (9x7m each) and one office for the teachers (4x7m), was finished. Solar panels on the roof, donated by KWP consulting group, now produce the necessary electricity to provide basic lighting. In order to realize this project, we raised EUR 20,000. The community contributed land, natural supplies and labor.
Why did we do this?
In Togo – as in every country in the world – education is the key to a better life. Children learn how to read and write at school, but most importantly they discover their capabilities and develop ambitions. They realize how they can contribute to a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.
Bougabou is a small village in the region of Kara in Northern Togo. The nearest adequately equipped secondary school was 11 km away in a town called Bassar. Considering the fact that Togolese children walk to school, this long distance prevents many of them from attending school.
The former secondary school in Bougabou consisted of a thatched roof supported by wooden posts, which was not weather-proof and did not shield from surrounding street noise and potential disturbances.
Classrooms were not permanently equipped with their own desks, yet they were allowed to rent old and often broken desks from the nearby primary school. Usually 3 or even 4 children shared a 1m long desk. Apart from two wells, the vicinity of Bougabou had no water or electricity supply.
This is why we equipped the school building with a solar power system, which is a suitable and efficient way to provide electricity in Togo. Since many families cannot afford petroleum lamps, electrifying the school is especially important. Pupils are given the opportunity to read and study at school after sunset and evening classes are now being organised. In the future teachers will be able to use electronic devices for their work, such as notebooks or photocopiers.
Especially during the rainy season, due to the poor structural conditions of the school, many children formerly did not attend their classes; instead, they were often helping their parents either with domestic work at home or agricultural work on the surrounding farms.
The population of Bougabou mostly cultivates manioc, which is processed to flour and sold in Bassar’s market. Foraged wood and charcoal are sold on the side of the street and also represent sources of income for some locals. Physical work is hard, yet shows quick results. For this reason, children and parents constantly face the difficult choice of attending school or working and thereby supporting the family.
Some children even leave their homes in order to work in neighbouring countries such as Nigeria, since they are promised manifold opportunities to earn money. Most of them return home empty-handed, often in poor health, and lacking crucial education.
How did we do that?
We worked on-site and from abroad. We visited Bougabou in September 2011 and had the opportunity to discuss essential aspects with the persons involved in order to verify the feasibility of the project in detail.
We wanted to provide Bougabou’s children with a school so that they can attend classes year-round. The school would make it easier for them to sacrifice a few hours of hard work in the fields for an investment in their future. The school would provide the community’s youth with the conditions they need to succeed in their studies and to ensure a better future for themselves and their community.
A local teacher explains the need.
One of our team members had been living and working in the nearby town “Bassar” as a “United States Peace Corps Volunteer” for two years and remained there throughout the whole construction phase. She communicated with the contractor, as well as with the local community. She was also responsible for monitoring the construction progress and was the on-site contact person for any matters whatsoever related to the school.
On its own initiative, the community of Bougabou offered to support the construction with anything they are able to provide: the land was donated by the school director’s family, local people contributed with their labor in order to save cost for construction workers, and water and sand for the cement were provided by the villagers.
All in all, the project received proactive support from the local community, the administrative bodies, the school inspectors in the region along with the teaching staff, as well as from the Catholic church of Bassar.
These are the people and the village where the school is so desperately needed. From the pictures of what is called a primary school here you can see how much a real school building adds to a students life. Now that the construction is finished, in the future you will also see what is going on at the moment!
This is where Bougabou is located: