I’ve been in Burkina Faso for about a week now and 4 days ago I went Southwest of the capital Ouagadougou to the town of Fada. There have been a few hiccups along the way since being in Africa, not the least is the lack of electricity. It goes out about 4 times a day and usually lasts between 2 and 6 hours. The place I’m in now doesn’t have a generator so when the power goes out it’s out, meaning no fans either. We had a tremendous lighting and rainstorm last night and it didn’t do much to squelch the heat. It’s getting closer to the end of the dry season and the water last night was running down the roads, but the earth is so dry there was no mud this morning.
I’ve got a day off today (yah right!), actually I’m sitting in my room all day developing the film from the last 4 days. But before I got started, after breakfast I went for a walk and ended up in the Fada Central Market. Now there it was very muddy, it’s all little alleyways covered with make shift cloth awnings to block the sun so the mud hadn’t dried up yet.
The other day I went out to the two small villages of Tigba and Modre with HKI to see and photograph their NTD (Neglected Tropical Diseases) program where one of the projects is screening for Trachoma in children. It reminded me of the day’s way back when we would all march down the hall to the auditorium to have our eyes and hearing checked. “Which way is the W pointing?” Trachoma is painful, it’s when the eyelids turn inward and the eyelashes grow inside. With every blink the eyelashes scratch the cornea. Simple hygiene, washing hands and face will keep Trachoma from taking hold but that’s a lesson learned. Another part of the NTD program HKI is teaching kids.
We first got to ‘Tigba C’, the name of the first school, around 10:00 and some of the kids were in the class rooms and others started lining up and walking towards us when they saw the white pickup truck drive up.
( All Blog Post Photos: © Bartay )
One schoolhouse had three classrooms and I think different grades shared them during the day because some kids came from across the field by groups. All the kids tended to group together by age and they were screened by age too. All names, screening results, etc all are written down for records. There were a few mild cases discovered and those kids will be watched and given a medicine salve to put in their eye(s) as needed and they will be followed up.
They were really rather calm, maybe this wasn’t their first time. They’d line up by class and then there were two doctors screening, Dr. Alfred and Dr. Dahani (first names!). They’d first look into their eyes, then spread them wide open, THEN they’d turn the eyelid inside out to look under the lid. That is where the Trachoma would show up.
I think they screened maybe 200 kids all by age or class. In between shooting the screenings while others were being screened I played around with the kids. I think I may have gotten them in trouble a few times. They do get noisy when excited. We were high five’n, learning to thumb wrestle, teaching them how to count to 10 in English.
Then they, OK the boys, would crowd in front of everyone to be first in the photos. The youngest ones were always outside just running around and being kids. The older ones ???, they seemed so serious. I would see them smile, then when I wanted to take their photo they’d get all serious. But we all had such a great time, I wanted to share some of the kids with you.
The classrooms were quite dark and very hot, to me. No electricity so no fans and all the windows have the typical metal shutters that are just cracked open during the day. OK, the little one in the back is the daughter of the teacher and too young to start school yet.
I also noted that just as in every country, at every age, with every generation, there were cliques. But I think they all got along better than the cliques of my generation or the current ones I see now back home.
One group of kids took off after the teacher got a little loud with them and went to the far classroom. But as soon as the teacher was gone, they’d all start running around, playing and just being kids. One group of kids that loved playing thumb wrestling kept lining up for me every time I’d point the camera in their direction. All in all it really was a thumbs up day.