Colma C elementary school in the town of Bobo-Dioulasso
Here at Colma Elementary School, in the second largest town in Burkina Faso, 1170 students are crowded into 6 classrooms. At the beginning of the year, the 3rd grade class (CE2) welcomed as many as 285 children. A solution had to be found quickly. So the school, with the help of subsidies from parents, decided to build 3 sheds. Now there is an average of 140 students per class and per teacher.
The lack of teachers is critical. Most of the time it is impossible for them to deal with so many students. Groups of children are organized with reading or writing activities- shaded from the sun under trees in the school yard - while the teacher provides lessons to others. A monitor is in charge of the activities of these groups, but the children are often left by themselves, chatting and wasting time. Teachers lack supplies such as books, chalk, pens and notebooks.“We manage with what we have”, says Sanon Bakaré -5th grade (CM2) teacher, “but the results are pathetic.” The supplies should normally be paid for by the parents, but most parents work the land or do small trading, and often they cannot afford to send their children to school, so there is no way they can help with the needs of teachers.
Sixty per-cent of the students do not eat three meals a day. Such is the case for Suliman who arrives every morning with an empty stomach and who regularly faints at about 11:00 a.m. “This year, harvesting has been poor for my dad, and a bag of corn costs too much” he explains. “But me, I want to go to school to study.” There is no school cafeteria and quite often children don’t eat at all during the school day. “This situation can last all year long” school director Vincent Drabo explains.
Since 2003 the number of students has also increased because of a massive return of repatriates from Core d’Ivoire. Here at Colma School, there are 200. Their lives are seriously precarious.
Despite the difficulty of the situation, at Colma Elementary, they don’t feel discouraged. The director has even decided to organize cultural activities to interest children in the arts. This year, the school was even awarded the first prize for traditional ballet in the Bobo district.