I think the Makoko floating school is an impressive effort, and the free education for the children was a good angle to it–for the children involved who might not get any education of any value without it. Yet, the argument around it is compelling. For me, my problem is with the blithe description of Makoko as a “way of life” that, but of course, is in danger of being lost-to-humanity-for-good as this Guardian journalist thinks. It’s precisely the fetishization of poverty correctly deplored.
Makoko is an indictment on every imaginable level. That it exists demands that it should not exist. But it does exist, see? And there lies the problem.
It never was argued that the ghettoes of New York remain as they were with their colourful mix of turn of the 19th century underclasses. The ghettoes had to go. The ghettoes were not negotiated with. They were replaced with social housing that, at the time, was honestly believed to be a better alternative on all levels. And it was, until new challenges came up. So, at what point does our applauding the conceptual and executed ingenuity (the dwellers have said they will fix the school and they actually can do that) of the floating school become exoticizing with a urban blight (and dispossesion and oppression of people), as opposed to transforming it, with new technology factored in, and creating better situations for the people who live there?
That’s why the free schooling is important to me. But there is still a larger argument.