WHD 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mohammed: Great cost to go to secondary school 

By Mohammed, a teenage boy living in Mentao refugee camp, Burkina Faso / Through Plan


Displaced by the Mali conflict, Mohammed’s family has borrowed all the money they can to send him to school, while they stay in Mentao refugee camp, Burkina Faso.

21 March 2013: I am extremely excited today, like every Friday afternoon. I am going back home to spend the weekend with my family. This is my life now here in Mentao.

Since we arrived in this part of Burkina Faso, fleeing the troubles in Timbuktu, I have been somehow parted from my parents. That was the only solution for me to stay in school. In the Mentao camp, where we live, there are no secondary schools - only primary schools run by Plan. The closest secondary school is in Djibo, about 50 kilometres from the camp.

At the beginning of the school year, we discussed it with my dad. He said I had to go to Djibo to study but that means I would have to become “more independent” and learn to be “on my own”.

Learning to survive

This is so new for me. With dad and other parents of the camps, we found a house to rent in Djibo. There are 6 of us in this small 3 bed house. The rent is paid by our parents and there is a woman from the camp who is coming once or twice a week to cook for us.

When we started living on our own, I just thought, ‘this is great, this is what I have always wanted to have - my own place’. Over the past months, I have learnt that there are strings attached to this gift.

The simple things I was not bothered to think about are now all mine. From turning the light off while leaving the house, to making sure doors are locked, taking care of bills and liaising between the landlord and my parents.

Education cost

My dad said it is a learning curve and that it is how I learn to become adult. Perhaps he is right. I don’t care that much because I strangely discovered a new passion for my studies here in Mentao.

I have always been quite good in school. But now I have a strong reason to be studious. My dad has paid over 140 000 FCFA (US$254) to get me and my brother into the private school I am attending. There was no place left in the overcrowded government-owned Lycée provincial in Djibo.

My parents sold a lot of our belongings and borrowed money from friends and relatives to make it happen. I feel there is an extra pressure on me to perform. I have been reading my lessons and doing my homework every day without failing.

So proud

I was so proud when I brought my first term results and I had so many good marks. I think my dad was relieved too. I heard my dad talk about next year and his worries about his ability to keep us in school, because of the high fees. I am worried too.

Many of my friends in Mentao camp don’t go to school anymore. They have dropped-out because there is no secondary school in the camp and their parents cannot afford the fees of the private schools in Djibo, plus the rent.

They spend all their days doing nothing in the camp. That is really sad. I know I am lucky. I often share my school experiences with them and I can see they envy me somehow. We all hope things will get better and all of us will be able to attend school.

Plan support

Like many secondary school teenagers in Mentao, my brother Abdul and I have applied for a bursary with Plan. We are praying we will receive the money to help our parents, who are clearly struggling to make ends meet.

My friend Muhammed, is hoping this bursary will help him go back to school - he hates staying at home all day long doing nothing.

The other day we were discussing about this school thing during our weekend stay in Mentao. A friend said he overheard his parents talking about a Plan project to build a new school building in the government owned Lycée provincial in Djibo, so that there are spaces for all of us.

Things are looking great thanks to all these projects going on. I now envy my friends who are enjoying a gap year in Mentao camp and will certainly be back to school when the new school year starts in October next year.

For more go to http://plan-international.org/
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Read more blogs from teenagers in the Mali conflict

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