Summer 2015. Global Children’s Art Programme is proud to announce our first project in Africa and our most ambitious project to date; building a schoolhouse in rural Chad. This project was overseen by Clamra Celestin and here are some notes from his journal.
I am Clamra Celestin, the Vice-President of Global Children’s Art Programme.
My memoir “Fils du Ciel” published in Paris in 2011, recounts my journey from a tiny village in Chad to Paris and now Manhattan. I was born and raised in Kindiri, a small village in rural Chad. At the age of 8, I was taken by the Jesuits to be educated at their Catholic School in a city a hundred miles from my village. During the civil war that tore my country apart in the 1980s, I was one of the thousands who suffered and nearly lost my life. When the war wound down, I was able to graduate from the Jesuits’ High School and moved to France where I earned several degrees. Ohio University Press is planning to publish an English version of my memoir to be released in the United States fall of 2016.
Understanding the value of education, I designed l’École Communautaire de Kindiri in 1993 while earning my business school degrees in Paris. My hope was to reduce the poverty level of peasants living in the south of Chad by creating a curriculum that alternated theoretical and practical teaching designed to increase self-sufficiency in agriculture and local arts.
The first year, we enrolled 95 children from Kindiri and two neighboring villages in the program. We gathered the children under the shade of a big shea tree and a teacher whom we paid $10 a month started teaching them. Since 1996, I have travelled once a year back to Chad and each time I spend six weeks teaching children and adults.
Twenty years went by and I alone with some few American and French friends support l’École Communautaire de Kindiri. With the donations we collect, we were able to accomplish much. The curriculum for the full primary cycle, from 1st to 6th grade had been completed in 1998 and we enrolled about 250 children every year. In 2002, we started with an adult program and a tree planting project. In 2010, we dug a well for the school to provide our students with clean water.
As of today, we are proud to say that three young women and five young men who started their education in Kindiri’s schools, arestudying in different universities in Africa. More than 1000 trees are planted, and our school’s first brick building furnished with school desks was erected this summer (2015) through Global Children’s Art Programme with generous support from the Charles E Scheidt Family Foundation, The Collomb Family, Ms. Donna Sylvester, and The Dr. Werner Muensterberger Trust.
While there I also conducted a pit-fire ceramic workshop with many of the children of the village. Pit-fired vessels are usually made by the women of the village and is a tradition that is slowly dying out. One of the goals of GLOCAP is to preserve this tradition and help to promote it among the youth as a means of cultural expression and a possible means of bringing funds into the community. For our first project we created small animal figurines. This was the very first art class for children in Kindiri.
Despite all these accomplishments, challenges still remain. We have only three teachers for six grades and the teachers earn very low salaries. We are in desperate need of art supplies and an art teacher, books, black boards and other classroom materials, along with equipment and materials for visual education. With continued support we hope to enroll more than 300 children.
The trauma of being separated at such a tender age from my parents was the motivating factor behind creating a primary school in my village. It is our dream to export this curriculum to other villages in Southern Chad so children don’t have to go through my experience to have access to education.