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Congo: This week we’re ghostbusters

We’ve learnt from the UN education co-ordination meeting that we’ve accidently given out evil spirits in our education kits (which contain notebooks, pens, pencils, and a ruler). The programme manager is confused — she didn’t order any evil spirits — and the logistician can’t find a record of them passing through the warehouse. But there they are, in the school kits, and a child has been hurt by one. Families are taking their school kits to be blessed by the priest and we’re going to each school to apologise.

Bizarre as it seems, this type of situation isn’t that unusual. I’ve had to explain why a dragon living under a village has interrupted work before, and ghosts have been known to be upset by latrines. Learning to work within communities doesn’t just mean understanding gender relations, the market economy, or meeting the teachers. It also means understanding their faith systems and beliefs, and working out how to work within them. This time, a child suffering an epileptic fit just after receiving a kit meant an evil spirit was involved.

Last week we dealt with skulls in schools and four metre-high walls of mud flowing through a village. This week we are ghostbusters. Who knows what’s next?

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