Brian Donnelly’s report on his visit to Burkina Faso with International Needs

Posted by Phil Marshall on 23/01/2012 21:16

Medical Centre with boundary wall and 2 completed units,seen from school.The purpose of our visit was to attend to the further progress of the Medical Centre being built with funds raised by International Needs, an NGO working to make a difference in some of the more deprived parts of the world of which Burkina Faso,a former French colony in W. Africa, is amongst the poorest. The Centre is located in Sector 11,an area of new housing on the outskirts of Bobo, the second largest town in the country with a population roughly equivalent to that of Merseyside. It was also planned to do some teaching in La Bonne Nouvelle, the International Needs School adjacent to the Medical Centre.

The first two phases of the Centre, made up of two blocks comprising consulting rooms, a pharmacy and a laboratory, are well on the way to completion and our arrival accelerated progress. The money we donated will help substantially with the connection of electricity leaving regular water supply as the one major issue to be resolved. The internal fittings and decoration are of a standard not normally found in these parts.

Unloading containerWhilst there, a major task was to empty a container of a range of medical equipment. The whole community, including women and children, was involved in this exercise allowing them to see inside the Centre, their Centre, for the first time. They were suitably impressed. The girls were particularly impressed with the flush toilets, a novelty in these parts.

When the third phase, a maternity unit, is complete, the Centre will help in overcoming the endemic health problems of the area, many of which impinge directly on local women. Too many of them die prematurely especially during childbirth, accounting for the high proportion of orphans. Women play a key role in this society, both as mothers and you can witness outstanding examples of care, and in making a contribution to the family income. In this largely Muslim society, we saw examples of women becoming more politically assertive in support of a variety of women’s occupations.

Ranked with access to medical support, the availability of a free school education for all is another major requirement if Africa is to escape the poverty cycle in which too much of the continent is trapped. A free, universal education for all up to the age of 14 was established in England in 1870.  Education in Burkina is neither free nor automatically available to all. The country is in a century old time warp. There are schools available and children do attend but it does depend on parents ability to pay. It is ironic when we consider here in England a paid education is regarded as the privilege of the rich. Nevertheless, the International Needs school is making a significant contribution to improving opportunity and standards. Facilities are limited and large classes impose a strain on resources but it is fully staffed and running a complete timetable for over 300 children covering an age range from 11 to 19.Pupils are keen and co-operative and a pleasure to teach.

Classroom singing from words written on board by one of girls.Whilst there, we observed an outstanding example of pupil initiative. Taking place at lunch-time, a number aged 14-16,assembled voluntarily in a classroom and, led by two girls, engaged in an organised Christian service reading, praying and singing, accompanied by a boy on the bongo drums. As they sang, they swayed like willows in the wind as only Africans can do. It was an example of self motivation of which any school in England would have been proud. It would seem these good people are naturally spiritual perhaps because they know from experience that man alone is not in control of his own destiny.

This was a wonderful trip, both demanding and full of reward. Many thanks are due to all those who gave encouragement and support.

School assembly al fresco.Children proudly wearing hats and scarves given to them for singing of YNWA A Medical Centre room with equipment from container.


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