Thursday, October 12, 2006


Armoede en dromen

Hello Hans

Although I promised to answer your questions from your last email I will do that next time. But as you are also interested in the present situation in Central Africa I will comment on how I see the social situation here but not strictly confined to the Central African Republic. This email was actually triggered by a radio report which I was listening to on yesterday’s flight to Bangassou on the HF radio.The flight itself was unremarkable. I was enjoying the flying as usual only a bit annoyed that the groundspeed would not go over 105 knots (so it took me 2:38 hrs to get to Bangassou, the way back was only 2:09 hrs). So while I was watching the landscape passing underneath me I was listening to the news which comes on every half hour. I have to admit that I have already forgotten what had been reported. In between there are reportages of all different kinds but yesterday’s caught my attention.It was about a little village in the Democratic Republic of Congo, nowadays well known because of the European soldiers being committed there due to the elections having been held. By incident a large part of the way to Bangassou takes me over Congo territory. The report was a merry one as it was about a new school that had been built. Finally the kids are able to get some kind of (my insertion) education. So far not something that would really blow your hair back. But then they interviewed two little boys about what they want to become. One of them was very enthusiastic about one day being a pilot and that he was so happy that he could finally go to school. All of a sudden there is this strange connection made between yourself and a far away and completely anonymous boy. Had he said that he wanted to become a biologist I probably would have forgotten about this report just as quickly as I had forgotten the news that had been broadcasted before.Now you sit in your plane flying along, enjoying it as always and you think that this boy would probably enjoy it as much, should he really be able to become a pilot in his years to come. You might think that it took you determination, perseverance and hard work to be able to become a pilot. It may well be so in our countries. But in our countries we know that we do have the possibilities to make some of our dreams come true. If you put all my determination, perseverance and hard work that I have invested so far (for 29 years???) together and have this boy have it in every single day of his life, do you think that he will ever be able to make his dream come true? I very much doubt that. I have been to a little village here in CAR in June. I went with father Helmut in his pirogue. The village is basically only accessible by boat along the river. There certainly are some footpaths connecting it with other villages further in the hinterland but there is by no means a road that you could use with any kind of vehicle. When we had beached the pirogue the people were of course interested in who this new white face (yes, I had not yet been exposed to the sun a lot) would be. So Helmut introduced me to the people as the pilot for the Catholic Mission. At least this is as much as I could understand. He was speaking to them in Sango as most people in the villages do not speak French. There was a lot of "ahh" and "ohh" and they eagerly told Helmut that they had seen me flying over their village the day before (which was in fact true because I was avoiding thunderstorms on the way from Bangassou to Mobaye, see one of the earlier stories). While being in the village I was able to talk to a man who was telling me that he is responsible for teaching the children. He said that most children attended his classes at least from time to time but that it was still very hard work. He was not a proper teacher but he spoke French and was also very proud of being able to speak some English. He was trying to educate the young in his village as good as he could. Classes were usually held outside in the shade under some tree or in the building that is also used to celebrate the mess when father Helmut comes. The children do not have any books, neither to read from nor to write in. In any case, they do not have pens to write with either.I am assuming now that there is not a lot of difference between a village in CAR and a village in DRC. I have seen a school (a hut with no benches or chairs or tables) in a village in northern Mozambique and there is basically no difference and that is why I take this assumption as factual.Given these circumstances you will now probably understand why I doubt that the anonymous boy from a little village somewhere in DRC, interviewed by a reporter from Europe who has probably spent less then a day in this village (there are no air-conditioned rooms!) will ever be able to enjoy and to be a little bit proud of being a pilot.I was wondering why these reports were being broadcasted. Is it to calm our conscience, the conscience of us who live in the developed world, that there is something being done for the poor people in the Third World? To me it seems like saying that apart from giving the money to feed the poor so that they do not starve we even pay on top of that for their education. Do you know that the agricultural products being produced world wide could feed 12 billion people? There are now about 6 billion people living on this planet and there are still people who do actually starve.I have read another book lately by a Polish journalist and war correspondent. His name is Ryszard Kapuscinski. He says that about 80% of the people live in poverty which does not necessarily mean that they are all starving. There are lots of different kinds of poverty.Is it not a kind of poverty when you have a dream that (you may or may not know that at the time) you will never be able to fulfil?

Best regards


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