We left at 6am to drive from Maradi to Niamey. Our plan was to visit the new school at Madaoua and meet with the school committee at Dogon Doutchi on the way. There is a two-lane road that traverses the southern part of Niger from West to East. Maradi is near the center of that road, close to the border of Nigeria. It takes about 9 -10 hours to go from Maradi to Niamey. It took us over 14 hours because of the two stops we made. It is an understatement to say that it was a very encouraging and energizing day – despite its length and heat.
When we arrived at the new kindergarten in Madaoua, we were immediately impressed with how organized everything was. They have 23 very energetic students, a dedicated teacher and an excellent administrator. The children were not timid! As we worked with the sponsored students on their cards, I thought it was great that at such a young age they are absolutely certain about what they want to be when they are older. Of course, those ideas will probably change, but it’s neat that they are already thinking about it and are not shy about sharing it with us. Many of the new students would like to be teachers and one is very sure that he will be in the army. He certainly had the pose down.
We were a little surprised to see a very small child in the same school uniform as the 4 and 5 year olds. This 2 year old is a typical toddler with a very short attention span. But, the father, who is a policeman was so eager to have his children attend school that the administrator could not turn him away. And it’s not uncommon for 3 year olds to go to preschool. When we were talking to the administrator, he jokingly told us that this student would be the most educated student in Niger when he finishes his studies at University.
Before we left Madaoua, we were honored with a meal that was prepared for us. It was absolutely delicious! We had millet cakes and a beef sauce over rice. We saw this as another reflection of how excited they are about establishing a quality school in their community. It was a kind and generous gesture for which we are very grateful.
Four hours later we arrived at Dogon Doutchi, where we were again honored with a meal when we got there. The school committee has been planning for a primary school for over eight years. They are really encouraged that they have partners who will come along side of them to help them make their vision a reality. It was exciting to hear about their vision and plan and visit the site where the school will be built. It was as if they could already see the school buildings as they pointed to the places where they would be constructed.
We also visited the site of the local church while we were there. I found it interesting that there are dorms on the church property where boys and girls can come to stay in order to go to middle school and high school. This is a great service that they are providing to these students, as they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to continue with their studies since the families live in villages where there are no secondary schools.
We finally reached Niamey, our final destination around 8pm. We were exhausted, but energized!