When I first met Edmond in 2019, KAFO had not been formerly founded. As early as the 1980's, Dr. Jules Millogo had been using his own money to support health and education in his village. Before he even graduated medical school, he was lifting his family out of poverty and working to advance his brothers education. Over the last 4 decades, promising students were selected to have their education financed by Dr. Millogo. Edmond, a helpful and humble young man, is one of the students who advanced his education with the help of his uncle. Feeling privileged to receive his uncle's support, he worked hard to advance himself to where he is today. When I visited Burkina Faso, I watched as he catered to the needs of the children around him, and as he worked diligently to complete his list of responsibilities. I watched him round up some of the students in the dormitory, and together we walked a mile or so to the children’s school. I sat with Larissa, Agnès, and Marie in the sun while he discussed school supplies with the school director. When he came back outside, he proclaimed in English “Okay, we have what we need.” Edmond was the oldest student living in the dorm at the time. Being the oldest, he was assigned many tasks throughout the week to help transition the kids back into the new school year as smoothly as possible. Together we visited a tailor, who mended the kids well worn uniforms. We shopped for groceries, which is quite the ordeal when you are feeding 14 people and there are no supermarkets nearby. We even led a group of 6 students back to Konkourona by bus to visit their families and offer our help in the village. Edmond graciously translated for me, both from French and Jula (the language spoken in Konkourona) to English. We worked side by side on his dad's farmland to pick vegetables for dinner. I discussed the importance of education with him, and his plans for the future. Today, I wanted to talk to him again, this time as a new high school graduate.
(Victorien, Edmond, and Daniel pose together in Konkourona)
Erica: Hi Edmond, congratulations on graduating high school and completing your baccalaureate! We are all very proud of you!
Edmond: Yes thank you very much!
Erica: You have continued to study and excel amid a particularly difficult time, the coronavirus pandemic. What was it like when schools first closed as the disease spread?
Edmond: Ah really it was not at all easy! So, priority was given to the students in the exam classes [students studying for compulsory exams to advance to the next grade]. All other intermediate classes remained practically closed for the rest of the school year! The Ministry of Education decided to prioritize our cumulative final exam. To graduate we were evaluated only on the end of year exam!
Erica: Do you mean your entire grade was based on one final exam?
Edmond: Exactly it is like that! The final exam has not changed! It assesses your knowledge of accounting, financial mathematics, general economics, general mathematics, English, history, geography, business organization, philosophy, and law! But the date had to be pushed back.
Erica: That sounds like a heavy exam! As a student you lived in the dormitory in Bobo-Dioulasso. What was it like continuing classes from home, with the other students around?
Edmond: During the school year I slept in the dormitory at Uncle Jacob’s. Regarding taking lessons, we were working online during the lockdown! After the lifting of the confinement we resumed normal courses. Currently I sleep at my older brother Félix's house! He graduated in 2017 with his baccalaureate. He is now in his third year studying pharmacy. [Felix also received Dr. Millogo's support.]
Erica: Wow, we are proud of Felix too. What was the hardest part about continuing to stay focused on your studies?
Edmond: One thing was the long nights of studying. Some nights we worked so late [at a cyber cafe] that I stayed at a friend’s house who I studied with.
Erica: What do you plan to do in the future?
Edmond: I will study Finance Accounting.
Erica: How has access to higher education impacted your life?
Edmond: Really even today we can not thank our uncle for everything he does for us because without him my school career would not be so advanced. Without him we would not have the means to register in the secondary schools. Especially university studies, it would be very difficult for our farming parents to be able to pay the tuition fees on their own.
Erica: Your uncle, Dr. Millogo, was the first person born in Konkourona to go to university. When he began supporting your family, your older sister Irène became the third person from your family to graduate university. How does it feel now that KAFO is offering every student in the village a better opportunity to pursue higher education?
Edmond: First of all, it is a feeling of joy which animates me to know that the opportunity to go to university studies will extend to the other inhabitants of the village. I see exactly that, I am blessed to be the fifth person from Konkourona to go to university. Now I am proud to be apart of the KAFO team. When I visit home, the people of the village stop me to thank KAFO for all the achievements we have made so far.
Erica: That's amazing. What is your role now as a part of the KAFO team?
Edmond: As a part of the KAFO team, I have different responsibilities through the year. Recently I collected a whole list of supplies for one of the classrooms and delivered it to Mami Siara Na for the students in the village. Having this responsibility makes me want to excel in studies so that I can encourage my cousins to get to work! I continue to pray for the association so that it can grow and lift my village out of poverty! And I thank everyone who has supported us!
Erica: Do you have anything more to say to the people who support KAFO?
Edmond: Well those who support KAFO have given the people of Konkourona so much motivation! It has motivated everyone to invest in and build up the life of the students! In addition we must make a gesture of our contribution! There is an old adage in Burkina Faso that says: "if we help you wash your back, you too must wash your front". With your help we will go so far! When I last returned to the village my father said that many parents had approached him ready to make a payment on the expenses of their children's education, ahead of the due date!
Erica: That is amazing. I’m glad the parents are so excited about the upgrades to the school. With my last question, I want to look at the future. KAFO’s next project is a primary healthcare center. How do you think access to healthcare will change Konkourona?
Edmond: This is very important to the development of Konkourona. With the poor condition of the roads, it is long and complicated to transport the sick to the hospital in the neighboring village, and it is the same for pregnant women who sometimes give birth on the way. The availability of a healthcare center in Konkourona will ensure the health of the population, facilitate childbirth safety, and many other things. It is very much needed.
Erica: That is a great insight. Well that’s all I have! Thank you again Edmond for answering all of my questions, congratulations, and God bless!
Edmond: Amen! Thank you very much Erica!
(Agnès, Edmond, Victorien, and Erica ride to the farm in Konkourona.)
Interview by Erica Valles, conducted via WhattsApp.