At the top of the pile we have university graduates, hefty fees for a decent enough education in science, management and engineering, subjects with which to build a future. It’s been good to talk to these types; politicised enough to be angry, educated enough to know their best hope lies in leaving the country. With them goes their expertise, their knowledge and a piece of the country’s chances. They know it, and guilt and self-preservation do battle.
Hoping to be among them we have kids at private schools doing SLC and +2, the equivalent of GCSEs and A-levels. There are fees to be paid here too, tough in a country where there’s not much money knocking about and the habit of putting children to work instead. And let’s be clear: paying fees here doesn’t buy you elocution and David Cameron, it buys a basic education, just enough to move up a step.
Below them, the government-funded free schools. I visited one this week, a bare concrete building in a village of mud-brick houses and subsistence farming. The poverty there was so overwhelming it was almost irrelevant to the world around it. In a small mud house, with generations packed in, with loose potatoes stacked on the floor, with life primitive and divided into shitting, sleeping, eating or none of the above, little details like wealth and hope and acquisition of stuff seem to exist in a parallel universe or a far off future, distant and inaccessible, like space travel to the stone age.
The school seems like the best hope going. There, kids who might be destined to work fields like the seventeen generations before them are learning stuff to take them elsewhere or fix up where they are. It comes off like a wobbly-legged David, under-resourced like the moon is under-populated, dirt-poor, equal parts depressing and inspiring and about the most admirable thing I’ve seen in my life.
It’s July’s Charity of the Month. I made a donation to go to new books or sports equipment or more of the essentials like, for example, chairs. I trust the money will be well spent, given to the headmaster Mrs Zero has known for years. He’s a good guy doing a good thing. I’m a loaded guy doing not much.
Photo credit: The Zero