Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Village Comes to the City

Gnéré is one of the rare ones who managed to get an education at the village elementary school and then to go on to Korhogo for middle school, high school, and teacher training. She teaches the equivalent of fourth grade. So many people have moved to Abidjan during the political crisis that she has 78 children this year, but they attend school for only half the day because of overcrowding. In the afternoon, another teacher uses the same small classroom for the other half of the fourth graders.

Besides her own four children, Gnéré and her husband, a mechanic, support two of Dofongnoh's younger siblings from the village, Gnon and N'golo so that they can go to school, as well as two nieces who are training to be tailors. In all, there are seventeen people in their household.

When I was there, it was Sunday afternoon and her boys and Gnon and N'golo were doing their homework with a tutor. Gnon came first in her class this year out of 108 students, a remarkable thing because Gnon never would have gone to school if Gnéré had not asked permission for her to come live with her and help with the children. Their three parents (they have the same father but different mothers) reluctantly agreed. Once she arrived in Abidjan, Gnon began to pester Gnéré to go to school. Their parents said no. But Gnon was determined. She began to follow along when the other children did their lessons, and the following year, Gnéré persuaded their parents to give their assent.

Gnéré has been pressed into service as a poll worker at her school and will have two days of training this week. "I'd rather vote early and then stay home all day," she confesses nervously. But there won't be an election without poll workers, so she felt she had no choice. Like everyone else, she carries a heavy load these days--hopes for a successful election and a return to normality, but also fears, fears of another round of violence in her overcrowded city and another step backward for her country.

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