Mind Your Language

Richard with villagers in Bepal
With villagers in Bepal
With villagers in Bepal

If you’re over 50 and reading this, you’ll definitely get the inference in the title. I’m not over 50 but I have dim memories of that 70’s sitcom.

Why did I use that as the title of this blog? About a week ago, in a very brave move for a town in Central African Republic (CAR) located close to the border with Chad, an English course started on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. There’s an English teacher (of sorts) and he gives it a good bash for two hours each Saturday and Sunday afternoon. I was contacted during the week and asked if I would go along and help out. I’ve committed to attending for one hour each Saturday.

Course materials are scarce, and I’ve certainly heard some English that I’ve never heard before (personal fave: ‘I got love in two thousand and five.’). But they’re giving it a go. It did make me reflect though on the abundance of materials that I have, even as a distance learner in a remote part of Africa, as I plot my course through the MA International Policy and Diplomacy, and the difficulties they face in a world without internet. How would we manage to attempt a course without JSTOR, Bookshelf and all those other sites which allow us to access hundreds of thousands of books and articles?

As I write this I’m putting the finishing touches to my final essay for the current module, and I should also be lavishing attention on a critical review, but I confess that the critical review is languishing in a folder on my computer after I made an initial stab some weeks ago. I’ll definitely do it next weekend. Or the weekend after that.

As I’m approaching the end of the final guided module, I’m starting to give some thought to my dissertation next year which will finally clinch the Master’s and allow me to (hopefully) crack open a bottle of champagne and bask in the admiration of erm…. myself really. While the dissertation is a daunting thought the module handbook is actually quite a calming read and made me feel a little better about putting fifteen thousand words together on a topic of my choice.

The second round of the legislative elections here has brought to an end the election period in which the country has voted for a new president and several hundred lawmakers. The president has appointed 23 ministers and they convened in mid-April for the first time. It’s pretty heady stuff for a country on such shaky foundations. Over the eastern border South Sudan is inching closer to a transition government, though the political climate there has overtaken that of CAR as the region’s most unstable. For a postgrad student in the field of international politics, seeing this first hand is a fascinating experience and lends an awful lot of context to the theory.

Child who had been suffering from Malaria in Bepal
He’d been suffering from malaria 48 hours earlier but the constant flow of anti-malarials to these remote villages meant that this little fella was there to greet me. Moments with the parents of these youngsters are priceless.


In the meantime, I’m cracking on over here, visiting villages and ensuring that the drugs are reaching those suffering from malaria. It’s World Malaria Day on Monday 25th April and we’ll be laying on a big celebration for the town and getting out some key messages about this brutal disease. We generally target the kids on such occasions, trying to get them involved in games and quizzes so that they learn a thing or two about malaria and take home a small gift for their efforts. The enthusiasm for these events is utterly off the scale and has to be witnessed. One of the key methods of generating enthusiasm is to ensure that you play music over a sound system between activities. Central Africans love to hear music and they love to dance. It’s a simple way of drawing a huge crowd before you get down to the serious business of promoting the message of the day.

That’s it for this blog, I’m going to procrastinate some more about that critical review which I’ll definitely do when I’ve simply run out of excuses to put it off any longer.

About Richard Bretherick 13 Articles
Final year MA International Policy and Diplomacy student. After twenty years in the military I eventually landed a job in the humanitarian industry, and I'm currently in the far north of Central African Republic managing a program in the fight against malaria. I love my job and I'm very lucky that I can say that.

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