We were leaving the Malian city of Bamako, heading four hundred and fifty kilometers east on a bus to our work area. Its been good to visually reconnect with the West African countryside again, this is the Africa I know and love. The six hour bus trip has been uneventful so far, which is encouraging here. The successive rapid firing snapshots I see are enabling me to rewire things in my brain, so that I am fully prepared to engage all the wonderful, and not so wonderful, realities coming our way when we set foot in our Malian home town in a few more hours. However, just now, there was one snapshot moment that really seared an impression into my mind. I typed this account on my phone, on the bus, immediately after the scene unfolded.
The old bus slowly belched and gurgled past a rural school where I noticed a group of sixty or so elementary kids lined up on a dusty soccer field. They where all standing in six rows by the goal post on one end of the sandy field, waiting for something to happen as their teacher waved his hands while explaining something. The otherwise barren soccer field also included two other children, excluded children. These two small boys were not lined up with the other elementary school kids. These two tiny little boys were each leading two massively huge horned bulls across the soccer field by a rope attached to a nose ring in each bull. The massive bulls seem too disproportionate when compared to the tiny little ones, boys almost half the physical size they should be for their age. If those bulls wanted to charge, or stampede and run off, there was nothing these little guys could do about it. The two boys crossed the soccer field diagonally, passing the group of school children, and exiting the far corner of the empty playing field, leaving behind a thin tail of dust where the bulls, and little bull herders, passed.
This is the image burned into my mind. These little Malian boys herding cows, not in school, not able to lineup with the kids who are.
Two Malian worlds, two possible daily reoccurring African village realities clashing on a rural school’s dusty soccer field. The same scene is visually repeated in every village, every day. Their little lives heading in two completely different directions. This is probably as close as these two boys will ever come to school, only crossing the soccer field. Their school is a “Wishing” School!