|The sun has set in one of the world's poorest nations and as the floodlights come on at G'bessi International Airport, the parking lot begins filling with children.|
The long stretch of pavement has the feel of a hushed library, each student sitting quietly, some moving their lips as their eyes traverse their French-language notes.
It's exam season in Guinea, ranked 160th out of 177 countries on the United Nations' development index, and schoolchildren flock to the airport every night because it's among the only places where they'll always find the lights on.
Groups of elementary and high school students begin heading to the airport at dusk, hoping to reserve a coveted spot under the oval light cast by one of a dozen lampposts in the parking lot. Some come from over an hour's walk away.
.....Only about a fifth of Guinea's 10 million people have access to electricity and even those that do experience frequent power cuts. With few families able to afford generators, students long ago discovered the airport.
Parents require girls to be chaperoned to the airport by an older brother or a trusted male friend. Even young children are allowed to stay out late under the fluorescent bulbs, so long as they return in groups.
"My parents don't worry about me because they know I'm here to seek my future," says 10-year-old Ali Mara, busy studying a diagram of the cephalothorax, the body of an insect.
They sit by age group with 7-, 8- and 9-year-olds on a curb in a traffic island and teenagers on the concrete pilings flanking the national and international terminals. There are few cars to disturb their studies.
....Eighteen-year-old Ousman Conde admits that sitting on the concrete piling is not comfortable, but says passing his upcoming exam could open doors.
"It hurts," he says, looking up from his notes on Karl Marx for the politics portion of the test. "But we prefer this hurt to the hurt of not doing well in our exams."
Young Guineans study under the dim parking lot lights at G'bessi Airport in Conakry, Guinea Wednesday, June 6, 2007. Only about a fifth of Guinea's 10 million people have access to electricity and even those that do, experience frequent power cuts. With few families able to afford generators, students long ago discovered that the airport is one of the few places where the lights never go out.