“We also want Ghana to be clean”, the ten-year-old tells
me matter-of-factly as he comes out of the classroom with his rucksack and
finds me in the shop. I could simply kiss the kid! I wink to Hamdia. I'm
starting to admire her even more. She does a great job as a 'teacher' in our
new classroom. It's as if she's been teaching for years. Dedicated and with
the conviction it's an important task she's been given, she educates the
children on the all importance to keep Tamale clean.
We still visit schools in town on weekdays occasionally, but we've declared
Saturdays 'Education Day' in our own workshop. All the children who come to
hand in their sachets that day, get to pick the article they want first and
then take place at the big table in the classroom, where Hamdia talks to
them, lets them share their stories and they sing a song about litter,
accompanied by guitar. It's simply wonderful! And whether Hamdia has one
child in her classroom of fifteen: she always gives them her full time and
attention. It's a wonderful addition to the great job we're already doing
here. We plan to make a guest book with the title “I keep Tamale clean”.
Children who want to, can write down their names to make it all a little
more official. They will then get a badge with the text "I love Tamale, I
keep it clean!" to wear on their school bag, raincoat or cap, to remind them
and others. For this can be so hard, here. To stick with your point of view
and your good intentions if so few people are truly interested at all. Why
wouldn't you just throw you litter out in the streets if your friends,
parents, teachers, everyone around you, carelessly do the same? If no one
talks to you about adding to the huge amount of litter in the streets?
That's why we should make visible what it is we want to accomplish...
everywhere and always!
With this idea in mind, we came up with another great plan in our workshop.
We want local artists to give Tamale's boring garbage containers - about 90
all together, spread out across the neighbourhoods - a little colour with
vivid designs and catching texts about caring for the environment. We want
secondary school students to come up with the designs and slogans by means
of a contest, so in every neighbourhood attention will be given to the
subject of litter. The great thing about it is that the containers are
emptied every couple of days and have to be driven through town like a
travelling exhibition on their way to the dump. They will then be replaced
by other, empty containers, also 'with a message'. The containers will
become like changing exhibitions in the neighbourhoods, encouraging Tamale
to become litter free.
Traditionally, it's the children who sweep the yard and take the garbage to
the containers. I can see them now, flocking around the containers, proud to
be able to read the English texts on them. To warm up Tamale's real garbage
men to this idea, I've made a couple of design examples on the computer.
Wouldn't it be great if these high-profile containers could find their way
into the streets? Now let's just hope the people at ZOOM-LION, the local
sanitation service, feel the same. We are getting together about it later
this month, around the table in our classroom, which for this occasion we
jokingly call our 'conference hall’.
By the way: we think it's wonderful a workshop after the concept of
Tuma-Viela is being set up in Gambia at the moment. We hope it will get as
many positive reactions as we do. With great pleasure, we made short video's
for our colleagues in Gambia, showing them how we make our school bags and
pencil cases. Articles from our workshop are on their way to them at this
moment. We are looking forward to good results from them and hope we will
learn a lot from each other.
Saturdays are special in the workshop, anyway. There's no school on
Saturdays for our worker's children and they love playing with the new toys
that have arrived. The long veranda along the yard of our compound house is
ideal for the kids. They play there to their heart's content, with the
tractors, the bicycles, the kid's scooter, which is an absolute favourite,
the Duplo bricks they actually use for building now, and the dolls that pass
from back to back between the girls, who fell in love with them completely.
Our second newborn, the little Hibatu, will certainly fall into the hands of
these toddler mums before long, just like our first baby, Ayara, did.
Rahina and Ikelima, two girls from a special education school, get their job
training in our workshop on Saturdays. They love it here. Rahina is starting
to get really handy with the sewing machine and Ikelima is terribly busy
with cutting up the sachets. Lizzy and Faruk, my two deaf teenagers, have
Saturday jobs at the workshop, so all in all Saturdays are a hectic,
cheerful, intense and lively end to our working week.
It's 4:30 PM. We are calling it a day: the end of our week. Dust flies
everywhere as brooms sweep the rooms. The ground outside is swept clean,
too. The children park their fleet in the shop. Haruna lifts Lizzy from her
wheelchair, puts her on the back of my motorbike and sits down next to her:
to keep an eye on her, but also to wait for the day's wages he can't wait to
spend. A few children with old cement bags full of sachets arrive at the
very last moment. We help them just before the shutters close.
Gafaru, who cuts the sachets, is still inside, behind the treadle sewing
machine he's come to love. “Look, with no hands!" he says, holding both
hands shakily up in the air, like a child trying a trick on a new bicycle.
We look at each other and snort with laughter. “Come outside, man! You get
to work again on Monday!”