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Buying In, Selling Out or Scraping By: Francophone African Bloggers on Social Mobility and Education

School on Hold While Mom Scrapes By

Carine - DR Congo
Carine. Courtesy Tony Katombe.

Le Blog du Congolais shares (FR) the touching story of Carine, a 22 year-old from the DRC with an infectious smile who sells omelettes and doughnuts during school hours:

Today I don't feel like eating Carine's omelettes. I can't fathom why a rather pretty young woman is selling omelettes and doughnuts all day instead of seeking a brighter future. She wants to know why I'm not having anything and I want to know why she isn't in school. “Because of hard times, she explains, this year Mom decided to send my sister who is in 12th grade and my younger brother and sister … to school. Next year, if Mom can afford it, my brother and I will go.”

And if Mom can't afford school next year? Well, the brother will go and Carine will wait again. She'll then be 23, the age to be graduating college, but instead she'll attend 8th grade.

Carine's mom explains to blogger Tony Katombe that her employer, a Congolese airline, hasn't paid her in several months. She likens her solution to delestage a term used to describe the government's rationing of electricity by delivering it to different neighborhoods every night. Apparently, Congolese families going through tough times practice delestage when it comes to food rationing as well: boys eat on even days while girls eat on uneven days.

Buying In Yet Stuck Between Two Worlds

Le Pangolin reflects (FR) on Ferdinand Oyono's novel Le Negre et la Medaille [The Man and the Medallion] about an African who donates land to colonial authorities, is rewarded with a medallion and then looses touch with reality:

[Kocumbo] no longer has “his feet on the ground”… [H]e's lost touch with reality. He's lost control of his being and of his body by giving up the gravity that attached him to the earth. Gravity is necessary to his equilibrium because the soil he distances himself from is the native land, that of his ancestors.

He is deprived of his traditional garb, but modern attire doesn't suit him any better. He is cut from his world but his new world doesn't fully embrace him either. Ill-adjusted and ill-adapted, Kocumbo floats between … two incompatible worlds: the traditional and the modern. His disease and his despair come principally from these two forces pulling him in antithetical directions.

Selling out, that “Centrafrican Syndrome”

Le Pangolin also explores (FR) the issues in Professor Abel Goumba's Le Role des Elites Africaines (ou le Mal Centrafricain) [The Role of African Elites (or the Centrafrican Syndrome)], a text he dedicates and recommends to Ivoirians, Gabonians, and Congolese-Zairians:

A look at the itinerary of young cadres’ government careers from entry-level to the presidency sheds light on the origin and cause of the “Centrafrican Syndrome”. The young cadre proudly brings his local or foreign diploma to government recruiters hoping it will serve as a key that opens doors … Motivated by ambition, he slowly abandons his own ideology that he adopted and fine-tuned at university and still harbors in his entry-level government job and instead takes on the ideology and practices of the ruling party.

Through turf wars, short lived self-interested alliances, corruption and other tricks, he ends up at the helm of the party or in another influential position with the ultimate goal of being appointed minister in a future government , the sought-after job that brings him security and social status.”

School of Life

But amidst the identity crisis, hope comes in the form of a new website, Contes et Legendes d'Afrique [Fairy Tales of Africa], that targets African children as well as those grownups looking for their inner African child. In the words of blogger Supermale a.k.a. Morad Ouasti (FR):

Contes et Legendes d'Afrique is about the will to fight against the withering of African identity, an identity otherwise drowned by the quasi-monopoly of American and Asian cultures on children's television programming. It's a return to our roots and a school of life for kids and grownups alike. With its talking animals, traditional African villages and fantasy-filled tales laced with moral maxims, Contes et Legendes d'Afrique paints an original cultural landscape. … [T]hrough this site Africa rises up to sing it soul.

Cartoons can be viewed directly on the site but are also available in VHS, DVD, VCD, audio cassette and print, Ouasti explains.

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