Every village has a crazy person. No really…I’m serious. I spent today joking with other PCVs about their village fous/folles. The whole idea of a village idiot is very true and every village seems to have one.
Even though these people may be amusing it’s a window on mental health care and treatment in BF. Unfortunately there is none. People with mental disorders rarely get treated. There are no mental hospitals or psychiatric wards as far as I know, maybe in Ouagadougou, but definitely not in village. Unfortunately this means that they cannot get the care they need.
The reality is that if you live in BF with a mental health disorder that you will not have the same quality of life. It’s like being dealt a bad hand…and unfortunately they cannot do anything about it and it’s heartbreaking. In my CE1 class there is this “student” Philippe. He’s not an official student or actually enrolled in the class He sits in the class. He cannot read or answer questions when he is called on. He is only there to be with the other students. The other teachers told me that if he wanders around the village during school hours he feels left out. Philippe spends most of the time sitting quietly alone in his chair and rarely speaks to other students. It’s just sad because there are no opportunities for special education or individualized education plans. If they are academically deficient you are left behind.
Our main fou walks around barefoot, is mute, and asks for money all the time to buy cigarettes. He’s a little creepy but harmless. Every morning he goes to each quartier to ask for money.
What’s remarkable is that even though these people are crazy, they are taken care of by the community. They might be homeless (Sans-domicile fixe/SDF en Français) but someone always takes them in. They have no money but someone always gives them food. They’re taken care of even if they don’t get any formal medical care. Villagers often ask me if there are homeless people and fous/folles in the US. And I say that there are, but they truly have no home, it’s not like the village/city/community takes them in. There might be a shelter, but that’s not even a guarantee. Unlike mentally challenged persons in the US they can always work in the fields; there will always be some place for them to go. African hospitality is truly warm and friendly. Everyone is a brother or sister, regardless if you are a fou or a folle.