Marcel Larocque is the president of the Association of French Speaking Teachers of New Brunswick in Canada. In April 2008, he went to Guinea to evaluate the effects and potential for development of a post-primary education programme organised by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF). He was accompanied by the Canadian head of programme, Guy Matte and another member of the evaluation team, André Pinard. Here are his thoughts on his experience in Guinea.
My passion for travelling and undying curiosity for other cultures was more than sufficient reason for me to accept the invitation of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and become involved in this fantastic project focusing on human and educational issues.
Our remit as part of the collaboration between Canada and Guinea was to evaluate six post-primary vocational education centres in Conakry, Kissidougou, Mamou, Labé, Boffa and Fria set up in partnership between the CTF, the Guinean teaching union congress and the relevant ministry. Through its international wing, I should perhaps explain that the CTF helps promote the wellbeing of children in many parts of the world, who are often faced with the most challenging learning conditions. As regards the Guinean programme, there is genuine financial and human support for constructing new schools or repairing existing facilities, teacher training, preparing teaching materials or even negotiating agreements with local government. The results are very encouraging and full of promise.
The school drop-out rate in Guinea is quite striking. Children leave school very early to provide for their families among other things. In many cases, girls have children at a very early age and it becomes virtually impossible for them to attend school. Post-primary vocational education programmes are helping to get things back on track by offering vocational education to young adults, some of whom have already turned twenty. Having more or less passed their primary schooling, this “second chance” school teaches them the basics of trades such as hairdressing, building, dressmaking, flower growing, hospitality, catering and tiling. During our “audit”, we heard many people’s accounts which were both highly eloquent and moving. The entire local population gathered to tell us about the challenges they face but they mainly wanted to thank us sincerely for our support for this educational and human project.
Although I was motivated by a genuine desire to help, I did not realise how much this experience would enrich me in human terms. These people’s incredible lust for life is clear from their kindness, sincere and generous hospitality and courage. In seeing the importance they give to family, I was reminded of real human values which we as North Americans sometimes forget in the frantic pace of life we impose upon ourselves.
I would like to thank the teachers who, through their work with the CTF, help to bring light to the lives of children desperate to improve their prospects. In the hope that some day, you have the chance to share this experience, I will leave you with the words of one very grateful father: “Opening a school means closing prisons”.