3 years ago or so, we realised that the one room in Alhassan's mum's bungalow which was for the live-in girls, was just not sufficient, in comparison to the need. We put steel doors on the top floor of the school to secure it at night, found space for a couple of cupboards for their bags and things and installed a small shower and loo [The Anne Hewlett Toilet]. The nine girls that had been sharing downstairs then had a decent space to live in at the top of the school. In the rainy season, it was awash with water when the winds were in a certain direction, so we sorted out shutters to protect them from the wind and the weather. Slowly it has become home to an increasing number of girls who would otherwise have had to lose their education.
Now, there are 35 girls all sharing the one loo and the limited cupboard space, but keen to complete their schooling. This is in the context of a country where many girls see gaining an education as a negative step backwards, as the men won't want you if you are educated, as you might think you are their equal [not a universal point of view but a very common one nevertheless] so we are keen to encourage the few that think differently.
The problem now is that we daily have requests from other girls who are horribly vulnerable, whose families do not prioritise their education at all and who will have to leave school and return to domestic chores or worse, if they do not stay with us.
My fear is that, if we carry on squeezing them in, we do a lower and lower quality job with the ones we have with us already. However, turning girls away when the consequences are so horrible does not seem like a morally acceptable option either.
Very difficult choices ahead................
Meanwhile, any woman who fancies an unpaid but rewarding boarding mistress post, with a significant training element to it, please apply to email@example.com!
For any more information about EducAid's work please see www.educaid.org.uk
Margaret saying her night prayers.
Hannah sorting out the cupboard.
Lined up along the wall, like sausages!
And more and more....... in between the desks.