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The griot speaks | by Julien Harneis
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The griot speaks

Talking with people.The old UNICEF staff hark back to when Jim Grant was the Executive Director. They tell tales of a world without internet and management software, when UNICEF’s job was to take the words of the people to the ear of the minister, when what counted was mud on your boots..I had one of those days Monday and it was wonderful. I went out to coach a team from our Kankan field office on how to monitor projects. We got to Niagassola at the end of the day. It is a small village in the far North East of the country. From the tarmac it was about a three hour drive along a track over dusty plains some chalk white others with the red grit of laterite. .After dark we settled down with men and women from the village. The weather was 23c, with a damp mist in the air. I have never felt such cold weather in Upper Guinea. So we huddled together around a fire. They told up about how the school and the health centre were working and what were their biggest concerns for themselves and their children. I got the feeling that people in Niagassola are not shy of telling us what they think, but there is something about talking in the dark at the end of the day that loosens up your tongue. There was a Griot, a story teller, a poet, in the group and he conjured up words from the fire to show us how things were. .We sat, listened and noted. We were with a couple of colleagues from the government who were from the regional administrative capital in Kankan. Both experienced, senior officials, it was a first for them, so they said, to sit down and hear what the people had on their minds.

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Taken on February 6, 2012