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THE STORY OF FASPEBI

This foundation is the product of an original effort, initiated nearly 20 years ago by Luigi Scantamburlo in support of a group of fishermen and students, which created infrastructure in Bubaque and the Bijago Islands to help the local population respond to new challenges imposed by post-independence development. FASPEBI is also a local foundation born of the conscious decision to face these problems, and the attempt to discover long-lasting and sustainable solutions.

The majority of FASPEBI's co-founders are workers and students with work experience and contact with the Bijago population. This lasting experience of work "in the field", of intimate contact with local communities, is enriched by the fact that FASPEBI's director, Father Luigi Scantamburlo, has among his academic qualifications (in addition to theology) a degree in anthropology and a Master's in linguistics, having performed an ample investigative work on the Bijago culture (with several articles and a book published) and studies on the Creole language, having completed a Creole/Portuguese dictionary.

It's written in the legal statute of the Foundation: "Article no. 3: FASPEBI has as its main objective to promote support for the development of the Bijago Archipelago's population, contributing not only to the elevation of its economical level, but also its social, cultural, and moral levels, using all legal means available." Its main areas of intervention are:

- Support for the Association of Bijago Fishermen (ASPEBI) helping its members to diversify their work domains, formerly limited to fishing. As a result, today, wood-workers produce chairs for schools, and the mechanics' shop makes metal fences for gardens, while FASPEBI performs the construction of and renovations to schools on the islands.

- Developing and promoting initiatives of a cultural manner, for example an investigative work whose goal is to collect written works in Bijago and Creole languages; the creation of a museum of Bijago art; support to sculptors, including the construction of proper rooms for the instruction and performance of this art.

- Support to several primary schools, dependents of the Ministry of Education, in the form of construction and repairs of buildings, teacher subsidies, and food support for students of Canhabaque Island during the time of "pabi" (preparation of rice fields).

- The support of initiatives that introduce new technologies necessary to Bijago society, such as those necessary for the recuperation of vast fields for rice cultivation, and for the manual production of nets.

Supporting basic education has shown itself to be indispensable in all this process. It's recognized uviersally that the acquisition of an elementary knowledge of writing and arithmetic is the main factor that causes a reduction in poverty and a greater participation of individuals in the economic, political, and cultural life of these societies. It's for this reason that FASPEBI is a common partner with the National Ministry of Education and the Department of Education in the Bolama-Bijagos Region, having even built schools on Canhabaque, Orangozinho, and Bubaque prior to its official legalization in 1995.

Our Foundation's members, the majority of whom are natives or long-time residents of the archipelago, began their work by developing a reliable support for elementary schools on the islands. Growing difficulties were felt, highlighted by concrete demands for support of the schools, by members of the population including teachers and above all children and youths; this caused FAsPEBI to work out a project which was presented and financed by the EU (in partnership with CIDAC) in 1998. The project's main objective was to teach the students to read and write using a language they know (Guinean Creole) and then - only once they've learned to read and write in their maternal language, or in a second language they're fluent in - they're taught Guinea-Bissau's official language, Portuguese, which is in all aspects considered to be a second language, not a maternal tongue.

In January 1998, with the board of the Project to Support Basic Education in the Bijagos' Archipelago, FASPEBI organized a Round Table that included the participation of more than 70 invitees, in Bubaque with the motto: "Basic Education and Development in the Bijago Archipelago. Among the guests were the Minister of Education, Dr. Odatte Semedo, the Director of Basic Education, Dr. Carlos Cardoso, and other representatives of NGOs and schools present in the Bijagos' Archipelago. Several problems were discussed. One of the most important recommendations was to re-institute the discontinued Bilingual Education project of CEEF (Experimental Center of Education and Graduation), which had been active from 1987 to 1992 in four places in Guinea-Bissau, among them the island of Uno. The positive results of this initiative, teaching and reading and writing in Creole and then moving on to Portuguese Education, had encouraged its continuation.

In July 2004, the project will complete its primary phase (1st-3rd grades) and proceed with its secondary phase (4th-6th grades) in the following three school-years (2004-07). Until now, the bilingual education program has encompassed nine schools (five on Bubaque Island, two on Orangozinho, and two on Canhabaque), with a total of 1000 students and 26 teachers. In the next year, there will be the normal addition of another nine first-grade classes, with an increase of 250 students and nine teachers.

For first and second grade, we've adopted (with improvements) the textbooks on Guinean Creole developed by the INDE's CEEF (1986-1993). For Portuguese instruction, new 2nd-to-3rd-grade manuals were developed (oral Portuguese for 2nd grade, and a Portuguese textbook for 3rd grade). The Portuguese textbook for 4th grade is being prepared by a team from Lisbon's New University (the same which prepared the 3rd-grade textbook).

In the next phase of the project, FASPEBI, together with the INDE, will secure the pedagogic administration, and the ISU will reliably support the higher education of our teachers.

 
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