Before leaving Accra for Nakom, I had the opportunity to visit a groundbreaking initiative. I came in contact with it through Reach For Change.
There are literary thousands of brilliant ideas idling out there without being realized due to lack of resources and opportunities. Reach For Change is a brilliant organization which support local entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams of a better society. They offer undiscovered talented minds a possibility to unleash the potential of their outstanding ideas. One of which is Street Library.
From ‘Circle’ (main station in Accra) I get on a tro tro to Damang. A small village about 3 hours from the capital. Tro’s doesn’t submit to a specific timetable. Like so many other methods of transportation in Africa, they leave when full, to the brim.
It takes two persons working in symbiosis to operate a tro. A driver and a collector. The driver’s job is essentially to drive (surprisingly enough) and to follow his colleague’s directions. The latter is responsible for collecting money, keep the vehicle as full as possible and simultaneously hang out the window shouting the final destination over and over again form the top of his lungs. There are no official stops. A tro stops if someone wants to get on. No matter where. Something you appreciate on the side of the road being picked up, yet hate sitting inside the tro.
Around me smart phone screens illuminate the faces of my fellow passengers.
Libraries and books are rare in Ghana, especially outside the bigger cities. Damang resembles many other villages in the country. No exception here.
Remember how much more fun it was to read a book you picked yourself in school? Well, here it’s very rare. The only books available are fundamental schoolbooks. If you’re lucky.
Street Library is a mobile library that goes to different villages in different regions all over Ghana. They manage to reach people in disadvantaged rural communities who are less educated and may find formal libraries intimidating and adverse. Street Library’s approach is more casual. A friendly, fun atmosphere. It’s taking place in a tent, set outdoors, which is considered to be the best approach.
If you want people to learn and develop you need to create the right conditions for them. A formula, which goes for everything. If you, as a teacher don’t make your class interesting enough to catch your students’ attention, how can you expect them to learn? If you, as a manager of a company fail to create the right working environment, how can you expect the company to be sustainable? What will inspire you to read and write without the necessary material needed? No comic strips. No domestic publications. Where are you going to experience the joy of reading?
However, remote villages are not only suffering from scarcity of material. There’s also a social aspect, which creates obstacles. Making education a secondary priority.
A majority of the children’s parents only have a few years of education. If any. Unfortunately, they’re not aware of the importance of education. Thus, not urging their children to go to school. It may seem more rational to stay home and help with daily chores.
Consequently, before Street Library initiates a program in a village they gather community leaders, elders and parents to talk about education and the positive impact of literacy. It’s a difficult and protracted process, which takes time.
However, the results have been astonishing!
Winniefred, a 9-year-old girl from the village, reads a book to me. We high five when it’s finished. She laughs and picks up another one from Street Library’s surprisingly substantial selection. Like many other children around here she speaks four different languages fluently. That is twice as many as me.
Two days after I left Damang, I step on a bus in Accra that will take me to Nakom. Only 20 hours to go.
When the engine starts the air condition kicks off. At first I’m thinking ”This is pleasant.. First cool sensation since I arrived to Africa”. After about 30 minutes I’m desperately yanking out clothes from my backpack. The air conditioner is blasting like a snow machine. Its’ draft makes the curtains wave like flags in the wind. I end up wearing trousers, two massive scarfs, a hoodie, shoes and three t-shirts. I have no idea how the other passengers coped with the artificial bone chilling cold. My time to shine due to my origin? Hell no. Didn’t stand a chance. I was completely helpless. This was something different.
Two hours later the bus breaks down. It’s pitch black outside. My legs are shaking as I step out of the bus. Finally my limbs get a chance to warm up. The driver opens up the back of the bus where the engine is. Trying to detect the problem.
An old man takes advantage of the momentary setback and places his sajada (Muslim praying mat) on the ground. He washes his hands, feet and face thoroughly before he turns his head towards Mecca. As I’m observing his ancient prayer ritual it occurs to me that Muslims in general must be in better shape than others. It’s like a mini yoga session actually. If you carry out that procedure five times a day your entire life, you have to be more agile than someone who doesn’t? If ever I lean back my spine cracks like an 80 year old trying to get out of an armchair.
My attention descends from the old man and refocuses on a kid who’s playing music from his smart phone. The mega hit ”Lollipop” is blaring out from the shitty speakers. I hear Lil’ Wayne’s codeine infected voice rapping ”Popping bottles in the club…” Globalization’s mark is more vivid here than anywhere else in the world. Contrasts contrasts contrasts. Evident wherever you go. In all aspects of life.
1.5 hours later the bus is back on the road again. To my initial delight the air condition isn’t working anymore. It gives me a satisfaction for about 20 minutes. I’m back to my initial outfit. Tank top and shorts.
As if something above is trying fuck with me, the bus has now transformed from a blizzard into a sauna. The fact that all seats are draped in plastic doesn’t help one bit. It doesn’t ”breathe” very well. I’m assuming it’s a poor attempt to give an impression that the bus is brand new. Although, that’s clearly not the case.
So for the remaining 18 hours I’m sweating like a whore in church instead. Can’t decide what’s worse..