In Sierra Leone the sun sets around 7 pm this time of year. Once it sets the night is upon you, and nowhere is accessible without a flashlight. This is the time our library opens, as 7-10 pm is the only time of day that electricity is guaranteed. On the way from the hostel towards the library it is impossible not to linger at the glossy stars against the pitch-black sky. There are so many, and they seem so bright and strong out here in rural Africa, where electric lights aren’t present to compete for your attention. A frog leaps hurriedly across the small path (in flight from a predating snake?). The animals of the jungle commence their song to the night.
Arriving at the library is like arriving to a cathedral of light. Mostly because it – like the stars – stands as a striking contrast to the dark night. Inside you can find much encouragement. Secondary school pupils in a concentrated effort to brush up on the curriculum before the impending WASSCE examinations (which will give them, what corresponds to a high-school certificate). A middle-aged woman bringing her small child, sits absorbed in a class 2 english language book – meant to children at the age of 8 – in an single-handed attempt to battle her illiterateness.
I turn on a computer and call on the group of class 3-4 kids that is sitting around a table, each with their English language book. Enthusiastically the hurry towards me, and are a few moments later discussing the math-puzzles appearing on the screen. I explain the function of the mouse and the keyboard, and tell them to take turns. Not long time passes before they master the game, and seem as accustomed to computers as Danish schoolchildren.
The ability of children to learn is so amazing.
As we tell them goodnight at 9, they all promises to come back the next night. And it seems to me that the cathedral of light does provide some enlightenment.