Monday, August 3, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Wednesday was the group’s final day in the village of Kranka and it came with pertinent information that Jon and I will add to our case study. Our intention for the day was to interview several of the villagers in a similar style as the community meeting in Babianeha, and then tour the village to gauge its relative size and layout, but we were only able to thoroughly accomplish the former.
Upon our arrival we made our way to the chief’s house, where there was no immediate answer to our knocking. Eventually, however, a small child peered cautiously around a wall of the house’s inner courtyard and instructed us to go to the school. We did so, and were greeted by several of the teachers and invited to sit. The chief joined us shortly thereafter; he had been in his house when we attempted to find him, so perhaps we had misunderstood the child.
In any case, we formally stated what each group would be doing: Roger would be teaching the same science lesson with the motors that he did at Ridge Experimental School, and the library group would be assisting us in interviewing the community. Since we had enough translators, we were able to do what we had hoped to do in Babianeha and split the representatives that Chief Nana had assembled for us into one group of all males and one group of all females, with each group interviewed by people of the same gender. We hoped that this way the villagers (particularly the women) would not feel pressured to give an answer that they personally didn’t agree with.
Indeed, the results of our interviews yielded very different responses. While we proceeded, more or less, off the same list of questions, the answers that the two groups gave were very different. The men insisted that the five water tanks and pumps installed previously by missionaries were more than enough to meet Kranka’s needs, and that water wasn’t an issue even in the dry season. The women had a different answer, which is not entirely unexpected, as carrying water is considered to be a woman’s job.
The women explained how they went to get water at three or four in the morning every day, sometimes walking several kilometers to a nearby spring when the pumps are either insufficient or too expensive. The cost of five pesewas (just over three cents) per pan of water may not seem like very much to Americans used to paying more than a dollar for a 16.9 oz. bottle, but the pesewas quickly add up, and the well water can become prohibitively expensive.
And while the well water is perfectly safe to drink, the water from the spring is not always the cleanest—the high demand for water (as well as the natural shrinking of the spring during the dry season) means that the women must frequently dig with their bare hands to get to the precious fluid.
Water, then, was the greatest concern of the women. The men, on the other hand, rated education as their greatest concern, noting that there aren’t sufficient desks and chairs for every student, and many children simply have to squat on the floor. The school doesn’t have a library, and has only two computers for student use—the XO laptop that last year’s group brought, and the laptop that Roger, Alison, and Mark donated to the school before we left. Additionally, very few students at the school are able to go on to high school—they have to work in the fields after school, and since most homes in Kranka don’t have electricity, students have to deal with not having any light as well as being tired.
There were a number of other issues that were brought up, such as the need for crop storage facilities. Since all the farmers for hundreds of kilometers around harvest at about the same time, the price of crops is quite low due to the large supply. People who can buy the products at harvest and store them for sale later in the year when they are out of season are able to make far more than the famers, who have to choose between either selling their crops for next to nothing or watching them rot mere days after the harvest.However, one of the men explained to us that our ability to do a given project was just as important as the community’s desire for it. Perhaps we might not be able to solve their greatest concerns, he said, but they would be grateful for anything we could do for them. In the grand scheme of things, all of the projects we have worked on are very small indeed. But no one who has seen the children at the schools we have visited could honestly say that our work doesn’t make a difference.