Friday, July 20, 2007

Come study at the Conakry Airport

This Washington Post article describes hundreds of students of all ages flocking to the Conakry Airport in Guinea to study under its fluorescent lamps. Guinea follows a French-style education system, based on high stakes exams. So, students really have to succeed to advance. Also, with the lack of textbooks and other educational resources, students become really good note takers. They also have to learn how to memorize well, skills we are losing in the United States.

When I visited Guinea last December, the airport is one of the most striking features. It is hot, dusty, and noisy. Conakry is located on a long peninsula. The airport is at the base of the peninsula. The city has grown right up to the edge of the airport. There is a blackened mosque right outside the airport terminal. I thought, at first, that it had been destroyed or burned. But I learned later that it had never been completed.

Ironically, Guinea should have more than enough electricity for everyone. the Fouta Djalon highlands have a lot of water and good locations for hydroelectric dams. The mineral wealth in Guinea, if used properly, would buy enough electric power. I worked at the C.E.E.D. (Center for Environmental Education and Development) in Kinkan, right next door to a working dam. One of the advantages to using this school for workshops is that it always has electricity. My overwhelming impression of Guineans, of all ages, is that with just a few more resources and opportunities, they can compete with and excel anywhere in the world.