Ebola and libraries

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Lots of stories about how "distrust" of Ebola quarantine and treatment can lead to perverse outcomes.  (The ratio of titillating "they fear white people" stories to "African health workers dying to help people with Ebola" is getting out of hand, BTW).

The horrific and dangerous situation impels me to once again reproduce my perennial back-of-envelope calculation about community libraries, your and everyone else's trusted source of information (posters, picture books, quietly competent librarians).  Let's say West Africa's population at-risk of Ebola (if the outbreak keeps growing) is 250 million.  Let's say 200 million are in rural areas.  Let's say each village library serves 4,000 people.  So you'd need 50,000 village libraries.  Let's say each one need $10,000 for startup and training and all that, and then $3,000 a year to run.  So we are talking $500m to start-up, and $150m to run per year.  So we are, for 10 years, talking about $2billion. 

I'm not saying libraries can prevent Ebola, but if part of the reason for the spread is too little trust in public information, not enough public information, not enough accessible public information, etc, then $2 b seems like a reasonable amount for something (like Ebola) that could cause tens of billions of dollars in damage... solely from a cost-benefit perspective.

But of course, if you funded more African village libraries and other preventative measures, you wouldn't be able to enjoy your iphones, teslas, cruise vacations, kindles, farm-fresh speckled eggs... Yes, library promoters are scolds. Get over it.

Concertation des bibliothécaires du Nord et Est

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Dans le souci de rendre plus opérationnelle, la gestion des bibliothèques villageoises, une rencontre débats a été organisée  à  la bibliothèque de Pobé Mengao dans la région Sahel le 17 juillet. Les bibliothécaires au nombre de cinq (Ouargaye, Bougounam, Kiembara,Pobé Mengao et Béléhédé)  et les coordonnateurs de FAVL ont pendant quatre heures échangé sur les difficultés rencontrées dans la gestion ainsi que la collaboration avec les Maires des communes.

Le retard et la perte des livres ont retenu beaucoup l'attention des participants. Il est ressorti que seules des campagnes de sensibilisation pourraient atténuer ce phénomène. Tous les cahiers de gestion ont également été examinés par les bibliothécaires pour harmoniser le système de collecte des données statistiques. A ce sujet les bibliothécaires ont été invités à fournir des données fiables.

La collaboration entre le bibliothécaire et la Mairie a été longuement discutée. Étant donné que les bibliothèques appartiennent au commune par conséquent le bibliothécaire doit informer régulièrement le maire du fonctionnement. Il doit en plus se présenter aux sessions du conseil municipal pour faire le compte rendu de ses activités.

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Return of a Peace Corps Volunteer to Pobé-Mengao

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Emilie writes:
After nearly three long years of moving to California, Elisee and I were finally able to make a trip back to Burkina Faso. We spent three great weeks visiting family and friends in Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou. But of course, one of the highlights of the trip for me was visiting friends and the library in Pobe-Mengao, where I lived for two years. Sidetrack: I have NOT missed the horrible transportation needed to get to village. A ten hour-long journey including a ride on the dreaded STNF bus. This bus has to be at least 40 years old. It barely runs, with an 80% chance of break down along the way...trust me, I've tested and confirmed this. The seat "cushions" consist of rusted metal frames, there are no windows--they've all been busted out, so you pray it never starts raining while riding--and the entrance aisle consists of a large board that attempts to hide the large corroded holes leading directly to the ground below. Though, once in Pobe, Elisee and I had an amazing time. I felt right at home and was thrilled to visit old friends.

The library was in decent shape, but definitely needed a little fix up. Due to a leaky roof, the rain had brought down dust and dirt that streaked and stained the beige walls. Though we had very limited funds, we were able to repair the roof and repaint the interior walls of the library, which definitely helped spruce the place up. Sita, a good friend of mine in the village, donated several trees and is currently prepping them to plant around the library. I was invited to plant one of the trees (cashew) just in front of the library. Finally, Elisee and I were pleased to be able to provide the library with more than 50 new books, including the titles most desired by students in the village. The books were all bought in Ouaga thanks to some kind donors (including my mom, thanks mom!) A definite hit with the kids were some 3D pictures books that we brought. It included those plastic red/blue glasses and the children had a blast looking at the pictures that seemed to pop up from the pages. Overall, a wonderful trip!

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What a real reading culture looks like!

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From the National Post. HT: Marginal Revolution

When it comes to mail delivery service in Iceland, two days stand out from the rest. The first is when the IKEA catalogue arrives. The second is when the bókatíðindi shows up in the mailbox. "This is the Christmas catalogue," says Bryndís Loftsdóttir of the Icelandic Publishers Association, handing over a copy of last year's glossy, 208-page tome. "It's always the same," she continues in an amused tone. "Weeks before this is published we anxiously get phone calls from people asking, 'When is it coming? Can I get it now?'" A copy of the bókatíðindi, which lists approximately 90% of the books published in Iceland each year, is mailed to every household in the country, free of charge. While in most countries the presents under the Christmas tree come in all shapes and sizes, Loftsdóttir jokes that in Iceland one finds a row of neatly wrapped books. "The book is still the most popular Christmas present in Iceland," she says. There's even a name for the phenomenon: the "jólabókaflóð," which means Christmas book flood.

Night light through solar powered lanterns in Ghana library

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Cletus Ayine writes:
On Monday I decided to pay a night visit to the Gowrie-Kunkua Library to find out why the library has been recording very high figures since we started using the Solar Lamps six months ago. I got there at about 8:00 pm. There were so many kids in the library, kids as young as 5years old were there to have fun with one another. I counted roughly 30 kids in library. I went round all tables to see what these kids were doing, I saw that some of them were working mathematics, some were doing the home work given to them at school. A majority of the kids were the final year students of Junior High School who were busy studying towards their Basic Education Exams. Some illiterate young adults were also gathered in front of the library doing their storytelling.  According to the librarian, she is facing problems with library users during the night session, when it is time to close the library, users refuse to leave. This has compelled her to shift the closing time from 10:00pm to 11:30pm.  She added that the night patronage far better than the daily patronage.  I also observed that at night the entire Gowrie-Kunkua Community becomes very dark since there is no electricity in any part of the village. The library with its Solar Lamps becomes bright at night therefore serves as "A Lantern" for Kunkua community. This I believe actually attracts the kids to the library.

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Lonely men like to read books?

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"Haynes McMullen, puzzling over why the settlers in the Far West were in "a much greater hurry to establish libraries than were residents of any other part of the country" when the "whites on the Pacific coast and in the Rockies were busily seeking their fortunes by mining or selling products to miners at high prices" looked at all the statistical variables, noted that the most significant was the low percentage of women in the population, and raised the question, "Could the abnormally low numbers of women have caused western men to turn to libraries?"
From J. E. Traue "The Public Library Explosion in Colonial New Zealand"  in Libraries & the Cultural Record Volume 42, Number 2, 2007 p. 156.
Libraries need activists, even today!

Coming to Louisville, he passed a competitive examination for principalship and was sent to direct a large elementary school known as Booker T. Washington. A few years later, he was given a temporary assignment as principal of Central High School. Meyzeek, concerned about the lack of adequate reference and reading materials at his school, boldly took his students to the Polytechnic Society Library, where after a few visits, they were refused admittance. Outraged by his students' humiliation, Meyzeek met with the library board and persuaded them to provide a "colored" branch library, with funds already pledged by the wealthy industrialist, Andrew Carnegie.

Health Reading and Computer Training Camps

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Kate Parry writes:
On July 8th to 10, UgCLA held a training workshop for the health camps that it is planning for five of its member libraries from August 11 to 16 this year. The project is funded by EIFL-PLIP (Electronic Information For Libraries). The five participating libraries are Access Knowledge at the Buiga Sunrise project in Mukono District, Busolwe Public Library in Butalejja District, CFYDDI (Centre for Youth Driven Development Initiatives) near Gayaza in Wakiso District, Nambi Sseppuuya Community Resource Centre at Igombe in Jinja District, and ORDISEF (Organisation for the Diffusion of Information on Society, Economy, and Finance) in Kasese.  A librarian attended from each of these libraries, together with a teacher and a health worker from the same community, and they all worked together to prepare themselves as facilitators of the health camps. They learnt how to teach basic computer skills, using software provided by the Maendeleo Foundation; they received ten sanitary kits for distribution to the girls who will participate in the camps and heard a presentation on feminine hygiene from a representative of the manufacturer, AfriPads; they heard a presentation from a health counsellor about sex education for adolescents; they discussed the camp curriculum that provided by UgCLA, previewed that books recommended for reading aloud to the participants, and discussed ways of assessing the participants' learning.  Finally, each library received a collection of books, stationery, games and other items for use during the camps. All the workshop participants took part enthusiastically in the activities and went away determined to make their camps a great success.

The workshop was held at Kabubbu Resort and Development Centre and was organized by Brenda Musasizi, UgCLA's coordinator and Enoch Magala, the project coordinator, with the help of UgCLA's intern from Youth in Development, Christine Madore. Kate Parry helped as a facilitator, and the Chairman and Secretary of UgCLA, Augustine Napagi and Justine Kiyimba, both attended. UgCLA would like to thank the Kabubbu Resort for its hospitality, the Maendeleo Foundation and AfriPads for partnering with us and donating material, and EIFL-PLIP, above all, for funding the project.

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David Pace photographs from Burkina Faso in Slate magazine

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FAVL friend David Pace has some amazing photography from Burkina Faso, and his work (and an interesting commentary) is featured in Slate magazine.  Check it out here.

When he stays in Bereba, Pace lives in a house on the outskirts of the village along a dirt road where people walk to their farms and fields in the morning and in the evening. One night about five years ago, Pace started taking photos as the people walked past. "The first photo I took, there was a young girl maybe 9 of 10 years old who had gone to gather firewood. She was walking down the path with her firewood, which she'd assembled into a ball on her head. The stack was half as tall as she was. It was this amazing sculptural hat. It just blew me away. I ran and got my camera and took a photo," he said. Once he started hanging out by his door and paying attention, Pace started noticing a more or less steady stream of people coming down the path on foot, on their bikes and motorcycles, or in carts drawn by donkeys or oxen every night from just before sundown until just after sundown. Sometimes, they came with firewood, other times with pots full of food they'd harvested. Most of the time it was pretty dark when the procession started, so Pace began using a flash, which gave the photos in his series, "Sur La Route," (which means "On The Road" in French) a surreal, cinematic look.

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Encouraging Update from Loumbila Village Librarian

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Dounko writes:
Je viens de communiquer avec la bibliothécaire de Loumbila, Mme Nana Léa, qui j'ai formée en février 2014. Elle m'a rassuré que la bibliothèque marche très bien. Tout ce qu'elle a appris est retransmis fidèlement aux lecteurs de Loumbila. Elle a remercié l'équipe de FAVL pour son expérience en matière de gestion et de formation des bibliothèques villageoises.

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Kids Reading in Ghana Libraries

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A short update from FAVL/CESRUD coordinator Cletus Ayine:

Today, I was at Sumbrungu Library in the morning. The library was occupied by pupils of KG and lower primary kids from nearby schools. I met a group of three girls from Class 4 who were busy copying the story of Fati and the Old Man into their new exercise books. I asked them why they are doing that instead of borrowing the book to read at home. They replied that they like the story and the pictures so they also want to have it at home as their own.

When they finished, I took them with some other kids of the same class through a group reading of the same book "Fati and the Old Man" for about an hour.  At the end of the story, they were able to tell me that Fati was running because she thought the old man was going to beat her; Fati was crying because she thought her mother doesn't trust her; and her father said she was climbing walls for fun. They were also able to tell that Fati and the Old Man later became friends. It was a great day because we were all happy.

My next direction was to Sherigu library in the afternoon. I got there at about noon. I met a teacher from St. Peter and Paul Academy, Miss Mary Anafo. She came to the library with her pupils for "Library hour." According to her, it is an activity in the school were she teaches and it is compulsory for every teacher to take pupils to the library for reading activities at twice a week. She took the kids through a group reading of The Little Crab. According to her, the book is design with pictures of common objects we have in our homes and numbers. She believes this will help kids to identify pictures of objects and being able to mention their names and number. Today was a great day even though the weather was drizzling all day.

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New Books at Sara!

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Dounko writes:
Le dimanche 06 juin a été marqué par la cérémonie de remise d'un lot important de livres d'auteurs Africains. Ce geste est l'œuvre des élèves d'ISO (Ecole Internationale de Ouagadougou). Ce sont eux avec l'aide de deux professeurs qui ont contribué en nature pour l'achat de livres afin de soutenir les bibliothèques villageoises. Les élèves du CM1 d'école ont porté leur choix sur la Bibliothèque de Sara. La somme collectée a permis de payer plus de 130 livres d'auteurs Africains.
 
Durant la cérémonie de remise, le chef de terre, Bazoum Gninko, a d'abord remercié les élèves d'ISO pour soutien à la Bibliothèque de Sara. Il a aussi salué les efforts de FAVL dans sa quête d'apporté le savoir à travers la lecture. Avant de terminer ses propos, il a souhaité une très bonne année, santé et longévité aux élèves et à leurs parents. Quant à Pémou Lofo, représentant du maire de la commune, il n'a pas manqué de rappeler les efforts que la mairie fournie de le cadre des conventions de cessation. Il a invité les jeunes, et surtout les enfants, à faire de cette bibliothèque le lieu de leur réussite.

Pour clôre la cérémonie Dounko Sanou, Coordonnateur Régional, a salué le bon geste de l'école ISO pour les soutiens énormes qu'elle ne cesse d'apporter à l'association. Il a aussi invité toute la population de Sara a fréquenter la bibliothèque sans oublier l'entretien des lieux et des livres.

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The Tribulations of a Sahelian Traveler by Michel Tinguiri

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Dr. Michel Tinguiri, a Burkinabè and cultural anthropologist residing in Maryland, writes with the following information:

I would like to share with you my novel, "The Tribulations of a Sahelian Traveler," which is now available through CreateSpace, an Amazon publishing platform. To the best of my knowledge, it is one of the first Burkinabè novels written in English.  I hope you will enjoy reading it.
Congratulations, Michel! I am looking forward to reading it.
Du 11 au 13 juin, le Centre Multimédia de Houndé a organisé un atelier de formation au profit de 12 illustrateurs locaux venus des villages de Béréba, Dimikuy, Dohoun, Karaba, Kombia et Sara. L'objectif de cet atelier de renforcer les capacités de ces illustrateurs locaux à de nouvelles techniques du dessin afin qu'ils puissent bien faire les illustrations des livres qui seront produits au centre. Durant 3 jours ils se sont penchés sur les styles de dessins, les types de lignes, la texture, l'anatomie et la situation du dessin dans son milieu. Le facilitateur, Fynn, volontaire du Corps de la Paix Américaine à Zonsé a abordé avec amour et volonté toutes les facettes du dessin. A l'issue des trois jours de travaux, les participants se disent satisfaits des connaissances acquises. Les travaux pratiques ont aboutis à des dessins qui seront utilisés pour produire un livre.

Pour Fankani Binart A. Yazon, le plus jeune des participants, ce fût une grande occasion pour lui d'approfondir ses connaissances en matière de dessin à savoir comment dessiner une personne qui regarde en haut, en bas, à gauche ou à droite sans oublier les travaux pratiques et critiques qui lui ont permis d'acquérir et de beaucoup retenir. Quant au facilitateur, il a vu des participants très courageux pour apprendre avec une bon créativité. Il y a eu une bonne compréhension qui a permis d'améliorer leur niveau. 

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Espen, who has been affiliated with the Uganda Community Library Association and Kitengesa Community Library, both supported by FAVL, has a new article in the IFLA Journal. It is based on his fieldwork in Caezaria Library in Uganda.

It is a fine article, and I thought well worth some attention. So here are some comments in the spirit of ... we need more discussion and attention to community (and public) libraries in Africa!

I have some quibbles with Espen's definition of community library. It seems to me that the origin or even control of the library matter little. An NGO insisting on stocking European classics only, and a village schoolteacher insisting on stocking her favorite anti-colonial literature dated from the 1950s.... both are equally "un-community" libraries. What matters is the usage, involvement, sense of belonging, efforts to create ties, openness to change, etc. A community library is one that is responsive to local readers, is used by local potential readers (a community library in a village with low literacy will have few readers), and makes efforts for local leaders (and readers) to be involved in governance. I also think that the distinction between community libraries and public libraries is overblown. Any good public library will be responsive to local readers, will be used, and will make efforts for local people to be involved. The ideal public library is a community library! The ideal community library is a public library!

Espen then has a section that quite properly raises some general theoretical questions about community libraries. In essence: it is entirely reasonable and right to question library collection priorities and reading programs. Given the focus on community libraries, however, I think Espen elides a thorny issue. A community is really a set of communities: villages (in English-speaking Africa) have anglophones, anglophiles, anti-colonialists, Daneille Steele lovers, grumps, Bible readers, terse and laconic intellectuals... all types. Sometimes they agree, but sometimes they disagree. Again, a library ideal is to be responsive, within constraints of budget and time, to these many constituencies. Extreme cases can arise: in American library history trashy novels were the subject of endless disputes between moralizing librarians and library boards (one part of the community) and many readers (another part of the community). So community conflict over libraries is to be expected. Indeed... maybe it is a good sign that people take reading seriously enough that it becomes controversial!

I like Espen's brief aside (following Lareau) that one of the effects of libraries is to prepare children to be more comfortable with adults in the "adult" world of office spaces. Too often rural children are completely unprepared for the more informal and collaborative work of an office. They are used to simply following directions. In an office setting, where knowledge is both tool and product, collaboration and communication are much more valuable. A library, a social space where children interact with adults, may help develop that skill. A librarian's question, "What did you think about this book?" may be the only sincere and respectful intellectual conversation a child has with an adult!

Overall, a fine article, well-worth reading!

Stranger-Johannessen, Espen. "Promoting a reading culture through a rural community library in Uganda." IFLA Journal 40.2 (2014): 92-101.
The usual.  It is true, obviously, but it would be nice for the journalists to come up with a better angle.

Ms. Adichie's "Americanah" chronicles the lives of Ifemelu and her lover, Obinze, whose adventures take them from Nigeria to America and Britain. In the United States, Ifemelu writes a popular blog about her growing racial consciousness and finds love with American men, both black and white. Back in Nigeria, her friends use the word "Americanah" to tease her about her Americanized attitudes. Ms. Adichie, who divides her time between the United States and Nigeria and runs a summer writing workshop in Lagos, has now written three well-received novels and a book of stories. She has amassed awards and has a movie adaptation this year of her novel "Half of a Yellow Sun," about the Biafran war. She even made it into a Beyoncé song: "Flawless," released in December, sampled several lines about feminism from a public lecture she gave. The success of "Half of a Yellow Sun" (2006), after the critical embrace of "Purple Hibiscus" (2003), was a major factor in sending publishers scrambling to find other talented African writers. The flowering of new African writers is "an amazing phenomenon," said Manthia Diawara, a professor of comparative literature and film at New York University. "It is a literature more about being a citizen of the world -- going to Europe, going back to Lagos," he said. "Now we are talking about how the West relates to Africa and it frees writers to create their own worlds. They have several identities and they speak several languages."

And not the Beyoncé the angle.  From New York Times.

Generous Car Donation

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Two weeks ago, FAVL received a generous donation of a RAV4 from an American couple, John Fulton and Eve Sorum. Eve was here on a Fulbright grant, teaching English at the University of Ouagadougou, while John, an award-winning author, was working on some new short stories. After spending a year in Ouaga, they returned home to Boston and wanted to make a contribution to FAVL before leaving. We're really grateful for their donation, which will help us immensely as we begin our new CRS and EIFL projects!

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Une lauréate du CEP 2014 à Pobé-Mengao

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Je m'appelle Konfé Orokia de l'école A de Pobé Mengao. Je viens d'avoir mon CEP.  C'est pour moi une joie de venir l'annoncer au bibliothécaire. J'ai participé au camp de lecture 2013, et cela m'a permis d'avoir un bon niveau en français tout au long de l'année scolaire. J'ai fréquenté la bibliothèque pendant toute l'année et le bibliothécaire nous invitait à beaucoup lire et à faire des exercices de français. Je dois cette réussite à cette bibliothèque. J'invite tous mes frères et sœurs à fréquenter la bibliothèque de Pobé. Vive les camps de lecture !

Chers donateurs, vos contributions pour les camps de lecture nous sont très profitables. Continuez à nous soutenir car c'est une grande porte de réussite pour nous.

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Notre animateur en fin de tournée dans les bibliothèques

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La tournée entreprise depuis le 21 juin par notre animateur Boué Alidou vient de s'achever à Bougounam. L'objectif de cette tournée était d'apporter son soutien aux bibliothécaires dans la gestion des bibliothèques et renforcer les relations avec les maires des communes concernées. Il a visité les bibliothèques de Ouargaye, Béléhédé, Pobé-Mengao, Kiembara et Bougounam. D'une manière générale, une satisfaction sur la fréquentation a été relevée ainsi que la sortie des livres. Cependant, il faut noter le nombre élevé de livres en retard et des livres perdus.

Il a également eu l'occasion d'échanger avec les maires sur la question de prise en charge des salaires des bibliothécaires et le financement au moins d'un camp de lecture. Les Maires qui ne sont pas à jour promettent d'en tenir compte dans leur budget complémentaire. Alidou a suggéré que les maires fassent des visites régulières dans les bibliothèques et l'organisation très prochaine d'une rencontre des bibliothécaires du Nord et de l'Est.

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A Little Poetry to Start Off Your Weekend

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People are getting slowly more creative with their submissions to the Multimedia Center in Houndé. (We've gotten a lot of stories that follow the same basic plotline about a girl who is poor but works hard in school and succeeds in life while bad things happen to everyone else.) A French teacher from Koumbia Departmental High School, Zohiba Bonou, submitted a book of poems called Des Labeurs de ma solitude. It includes poems that encourage parents to love their children and children to go to school, others about the sun and darker verses about corruption and prostitution. Molly had printed copies, which will soon be distributed to the libraries. Here's a little sample of one of the more light-hearted poems, "Aie Maman":

Aïe maman !

Aïe, aïe, aïe maman !
Que t'arrive t-il mon enfant ?
Quelque chose m'a piqué
Qu'est-ce qui t'a piqué

N'as-tu pas porté tes chaussures
Non maman je les ai oubliées
Fais voir ce qui t'a piqué
C'est une épine, j'étais sûre

Je l'ai enlevée mon enfant
Je te remercie maman
Tes chausseurs, ne les oublie plus jamais
Compris maman, je ne les oublierai jamais.

FAVL Blog

Books, reading, and libraries relevant to Africa by Michael Kevane, co-Director of FAVL and economist at Santa Clara University.

Other contributors include Kate Parry, FAVL-East Africa director, FAVL Burkina Faso representative Koura Donkoui, FAVL Burkina Faso program manager Krystle Nanema, and FAVL friends Emilie Crofton and Elisee Sare.

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