Last week my time was occupied with the first steps of building the new RUSODEF School, and the first requirement was getting the land surveyed and its boundaries marked. The community donated the land that the first school was built upon last year but it was not specifically marked out and Walisu wanted this to happen before the second classroom was built. The first step in this process was to approach the community Chairperson about this and he agreed that yes this should happen so that everybody knew what was for the school. He then called the community member that was in charge of the community lands, all of which are owned by the Chief. This man had the government surveying maps—which are really funny to look at because they look exactly like a western suburb with nice plots, roads, parks, and col de sacs-- and using them we picked a large plot surrounding the existing school. The next step—a lot of steps whenever you are working in a community—was to visit the government surveyor that is in charge of this community. We scheduled a meeting with him for Saturday “around noon” which was rescheduled for “around 5:30” after he did not show up. Ultimately the meeting took place on Monday at 10:00am following a couple more missed appointments—while waiting for one of these appointments I was approached by a very large Muslim man who demanded that I wash and then join him at the Mosque. The surveyor turned out to be a nice guy and significantly lowered the price for us. On Monday afternoon they began the surveying which in true Ghanaian fashion involved few of the necessary tools and the majority of the tools that were used were machetes—used for chopping off in the way tree branches or bushes, digging holes, and staking down the measuring tape. They marked off all the plots and would then return the following day to place marking stones.
The next morning we returned as the surveyors were finishing up. And while we were there one of the community members began to make trouble; telling the surveyors to leave and stop working because we—myself and Walisu—had done this process wrong. The man causing this trouble is named Dawuda and is actually associated with RUSODEF and usually helps Walisu implement programs because he is one of the few older community members in any of the villages that has a high school education. All of this resulted in lots of yelling and at one point the surveyors did leave but did return to finish the job. After all of this took place Walisu and I went out to visit the Chairperson at his farm—he is also currently the acting Chief because he is the oldest son of the recently deceased Chief. We asked him if we had done anything wrong or overstepped in community norms in demarking the land and he said no. This made me feel pretty good. However, there would still be a community meeting to discuss this.
The next morning we were told to come to the village for a meeting, since this first began I was a little nervous but Walisu was sure that the problem would be easily and quickly resolved. We met for a meeting at the school which was attended by mostly the younger men in the community along with some older ones as well—probably fifteen in all. This quickly broke down into a Ghanaian argument which just consists of trying to yell the loudest—logic in disagreements is unheard of. This was all taking place in Dagbani but I could still tell it wasn’t looking good for Walisu and eventually he said that we should just go. It appears that Dawuda had spent his time informing people that we had bought the land and saying that we were trying to take over the community—this was where most of the anger was coming from. During the meeting Dawuda had also said the RUSODEF was not needed and that he could handle and finance all development projects—he operates the orphanage which is connected to a volunteer organization which places volunteers there and it appears that his financing would come from this. During this argument some people had also said some very mean things to and about Walisu. This was especially hard for Walisu because he has completely dedicated his life to this work.
Since this happened Walisu has been back to the village and did receive some apologies and while it appears that most people don’t like Dawuda they still believe what he said, so for now the school project is on hold.
Since then we have been focusing on some of the other education projects and have finished enrolling the girl from the previous post in high school as well as set up a partnership with GIGDEV—the organization I mentioned in a previous post—where they will enroll any of the girls we find that are interested in vocational training.
This weekend I also went and visited Walisu’s Grandfather and Grandmother. These visits are always enjoyable. I especially like visiting his Grandmother who extrudes all the warmth and affection of Grandmothers everywhere.
I have included some pictures of the women who received the micro-loans in December.