2017: Kati -Bédjémé


Kati — Three R’s and Dancing

 

In early 2016 SET received an impassioned request to build a school in the village of Kati.  In May 2016, Don and Heather Barclay visited the village school site.

The Kati Girls’ Dance Troupe

To welcome them, hundreds of villagers had gathered earlier in the morning.  Along with traditional dancing, the case for the new school was made through speeches and drama. Speaking for the whole community, elders expressed deep anxiety about the 190 students’ potential to learn in overcrowded thatched wall-less huts called‘apatams.’  Because the school building they once used was near collapse, students were moved to safety outdoors.  The community begged SET “not to abandon their children to the wind and rain.”

An open classroom known in Togo as an apatam

A town of fewer than 7,000 people, Kati is located in a large fertile valley of the Agou district of Togo. In this market town, at the crossroads of several villages, most are engaged in subsistence farming.  The government’s care for this district’s educational infrastructure has been described by the African internet news site, 27avril.com as “leaving much to be desired”.

SET directors quickly approved the request for a new school. The project began in the fall of 2016 with local people providing labour.  They finished the new Kati School in spring 2017. 

A community as dedicated to education as the one in Kati will be completely involved in maintaining the building.  Not just for daily classes, but for the Friday evening rehearsals of the girls’ dance troupe.


Bédjémé — Language Diversity

 

Clay classroom in Bédjémé with apatam in background

Taught by a tutor, the pupils of the first primary school in Bédjémé in 1977 attended classes in a private house and under the trees of the common courtyard. Since then the population of the village has grown enormously.  To accommodate such expansion, a government school was built decades ago.  Quickly outgrowing it, the villagers built outlying lean-tos as additional classrooms for the 543 students.  One clay shelter and six thatched lean-tos made for a disjointed school complex.

A Bédjémé student reads his essay on why the community needs a new school.

When SET directors Don Barclay and Simon Carette visited Bédjémé in May 2017 they observed optimism, community spirit and dedication to education within a community dealing with some unusual pressures.

Due in part to the community’s agricultural success a number of families from the north of Togo relocated to the area.  With good reason these new arrivals sent their children to the school, adding to its overpopulation.  An additional challenge arose in that the newcomers’ native language differed from the local one.  All teaching in Togo is done in French, but for the primary pupils their immersion in a second language can be eased by teachers who share their tribal language.  Not so for the newer children.  To help these students in a very difficult transition required more of the teachers’ time and effort.  Additional space needed to be found for this special teaching.  

Village elders presenting formal request to SET directors for new Bédjémé school

Rather than continuing a haphazard school expansion, the village leaders made a formal request to SET for a new building.  They could point to the successes within the Bédjémé primary school:  very high attendance, a high ranking in academic testing as compared to neighbouring village schools, and financial support from village parents for the volunteer teachers.  This money came from the sales of crops grown in community fields.

With SET board approval in June 2017 the Bédjémé school moved ahead rapidly – as expected – and in early 2018 was ready to accept students.

 

Levelling handmade cement bricks for new Bédjémé school