Warner M. Montgomery’s
Adventure TravelThe Dabompa School
At a meeting of the Farenya Renaissance Association in Conakry, Guinea, after our successful Slave Trail Trek in June, 2004, we were entertained by a group of school children. Their rendition of the Star Spangled Banner in English totally surprised Dr. Jim Fisher and me. Then they sang the Guinea National Anthem in French, Arabic, and English. They were from the UJDC School of Dabompa, a private school founded by our interpreter, Sekou Ahmed Soumah.
Ahmed, as he is called, was born in Farenya in 1958 and educated in Conakry. A devout Muslim, Ahmed went to Egypt where he learned Arabic and traced his ancestry back to Mohammed. In the 1970s he drove a taxi in Israel and later delivered pizza in Washington, DC, all the while studying language and culture of the societies in which he lived.
When he returned to Guinea in the 1980s he founded the UJDC (Union for the Cultural Development of Youth), a non–government organization with a board of directors of 14 civil servants. In 1998 UJDC established the Dabompa School.
A few days later, Jim and I visited the Dabompa School. The five–room building, a mile off the main road, houses 110 students in grades one through six. There are seven teachers. All teachers teach all subjects in French, English, and Arabic. Tuition is 5,000 francs a month. At the current rate of exchange, this is less than $2. Ten students receive free tuition because they are too poor to pay.
The founder, Ahmed, teaches, organizes the curriculum, recruits students, and solicits funds from members of UJDC. His monthly salary is $125. Mr. Ousmane, the director, receives $80. The other teachers make between $40 and $60. Rent for the building is $35 a month. A quick analysis of the finances reveals a large monthly deficit. There is obviously no money for desks, books, or supplies. In spite of this, 50% of the sixth grade students pass the government exam and move into secondary education.
The dedication of the faculty and the excitement of the students brought tears to my eyes as they recited a poem in English welcoming us to their school. With almost nothing, these West African teachers are struggling to bring their children a better life. The oft repeated African saying, “It takes a village to educate a child,” is easy to say in America. It is getting more and more difficult to do in Africa.
(Next week: A plan that works)