Mabinty returned to college just hours before we returned (the teachers had been given two days off for Christmas). Seems the scholarship students are struggling. Turns out that the fees quoted by the college did not include the cost of “pamphlets” provided by instructors and most of the students can’t buy what they consider required materials. This is somewhat contentious as the college does not approve of instructors selling pamphlets, a long-standing criticized practice which supplements instructors’ salaries and which seems endemic at all learning institutions. I believe there is a meeting at the college to resolve this issue today. Seems the students are caught between tradition and the current climate of the country trying to control what is seen as corruption. I’m hoping the students’ needs and college policy wins out. Mabinty tells me how the students gather late in the evenings with rice and a borrowed pot behind the residence to cook a communal meal for themselves and how few left the campus to return home for Christmas as they lacked transport fees. We are all hoping that the promised salaries for community (volunteer) teachers will actually materialize in January to prevent similar strain next term. Not that this will be a complete solution. On Christmas Eve, one of the salaried teachers who lives in another village but teaches here told me he would not be going home as his salary had not yet been paid and he was too embarrassed to appear before his family with no food or new clothes for his children. Ah, Sierra Leone!
Meanwhile, last night Mapaki hosted another “jam” or dance. I think this has been seven straight nights of all night music for me…I resorted to ear plugs and slept very soundly through it all. So soundly that I missed the trauma of the night. For the second time since I’ve been here, there has been an incident of violence by a man against a woman, and in both cases the perpetrators were people who come from other parts of the country. Each time this happens, it reinforces for me the value and importance of local traditions of peace-keeping, which seem to prevent any violence among or by youth who were raised here. Last night’s incident was sparked by jealousy and has ended with a young man being taken to custody in the neighbouring town after it seems the whole village interceded and decided what should be done. All are shaking their heads today and wondering why he didn’t simply choose another woman if this one didn’t want him.
In four days my sister and brother will be here to visit and learn and do workshops for a few weeks. All the chiefdom leaders have gathered in Mapaki today to plan for this, while I sit back and see how things unfold. Can’t wait for them to get here!
Photo - About to leave Nerekoro. More photos posted here.