Our weekly Saturday ...

Newsletter december 2012
Tuma Viela

“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!”


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