Voluntary Service Overseas

Christian Zozol (1953-1960), who was successful in his M.Sc., Metallurgy examinations this year, has taken a post as a Teacher in a Mission School in Rwanda, Central Africa and writes as follows :-

Dear Father Dominic and Staff,

From a mountain top in this, the smallest or the African Republics (approximately half the size of Wales) I wish you "Muraho!" In the company of two other volunteers I left England in September after successfully completing my M.Sc., course (great relief!) and flew to Rwanda by way of Athens. Cairo and Kigali. The flight over Egypt and the Sudan will remain fixed in my memory - for hour after hour we flew over a desert of dunes, broken occasionally by a meandering length of greenery as the White Nile flowed beneath us. Its presence in that waste of sand is really a wonder. From Kigali the capital of Rwanda we were driven to the Mission at Shyogwe. The whole country is mountainous and at 6,000 ft., we soon found our-selves at odds with the thin atmosphere. To our great surprise, our own accommodation is very comfortable - a large bungalow shared between five of us, two Britishers, two Frenchmen and myself. In contrast the poverty of the Rwandese is initially heartbreaking. They live in round huts made of mud, with thatched roofs, and surrounded by a bamboo palisade. Each enclosure stands in its own banana, bean and coffee patch

The picturesque nature of the unit belies its internal squalor. The people live off bananas, beans and a little milk, sweet potatoes and various other vegetables, depending on the season. After a week or two Europe no longer forces a comparison and one soon learns to accept what one sees as fact. The children are most striking; small with large heads, wide eyes, some extremely serious in mien, others gay and laughing. They run out of the huts to greet any European who happens to be passing; some, imitating their elders, gravely shake hands!

The school in which I teach is one of the few secondary schools in the country. Run by Anglican missionaries on a small subsidy, it holds some 280 pupils - all boarding - whose ages range from 12 to 18 years old. The standard is low, although the actual syllabus reaches a good Ordinary Level standard. I teach Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and History to the second, fourth and fifth forms. Progress in the sciences, if slow, is at least tangible. One gets some remarkable results from one's teaching. In History, however, I was surprised to learn that -

(a) the Greeks found boats more useful than planes .... in the 8th century, B.C.!
(b) that they practised underwater warfare!!!
(c) that they walked on water?!?

I somehow suspect that Religious instruction intruded on that last answer! All the teaching is through the medium of French - to them an alien language, but on the whole they cope very well and the French is kept as simple as possible. Mr. Baring-Gould will no doubt be delighted to know that I am now completely bilingual and there is still the possibility that my spelling may improve.

I must break off now, for in a few minutes I shall be pointing my way across the hills followed by the school cross-country team. Should any of the boys be interested in doing a year abroad for V.S.O. (school-leavers can also come out as teachers) I will be happy to send details and impressions of the life here.

With best wishes for a successful school year Christian Zozol.

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