Among the educational visits we made in Burkina Faso, I was especially touched by the Bisongo school. It’s a word in More, the most widely spoken local language in Burkina Faso. It’s actually a combination of two words, biga (child) and songo (wellbeing), so it means the ‘wellbeing of the child’. It’s a preschool structure for the 3-6-year-olds that plays a big part in paving the way for the children’s future educational success.
The children are supervised by what they call petites mamans. The community is very strong there because these supervisors are chosen by the community around the school.
The very name immediately suggests that the adults who set up this programme wanted to give these children all the love they had and prepare them for primary school as well as possible.
Bisongos are a bit like primary schools but the material is adapted to small children, so they learn while they play. The children are supervised by teaching mothers, called ‘little mums’ and by teachers, especially in the third year.
The children also have access to clean toilets and drinking water. You might feel that goes without saying, but it’s a real step forward, fantastic.
Another major positive thing about the Bisongos is that they give the mums the freedom to get a job or do something that makes money for the household, and to get involved in the Bisongo, especially when it comes to feeding the children. The mums run a canteen for the children.
It was pretty obvious that the programme supervisors were highly motivated and very competent. I felt they very much had the children’s interests at heart. They believe that it gives hope for a better world.
Another thing that really made a big impression on me was seeing the first year primary school children at the school next door. It was clear that the children who had come from the Bisongo were much more advanced, especially in writing and their command of French, than the other children. That’s good to see.
The children speak More, so I couldn’t really have a conversation with them. I did have the chance to play with them, though, and they were clearly happy. They were all smiling. They were happy to be there. It was heart-warming.
As the mum of a three-year-old girl who has just started nursery, the first year of school, I feel a bond with these parents. It’s very emotional to see their satisfaction, to see all this success, which suggests that great things are about to happen. We have to hope that this programme will develop beyond the two provinces where the bisongos have been piloted (Namentenga and Ganzourgou).
That’s really what I wanted to share with you. So, there you have it. The end of our wonderful trip to Burkina Faso.