Our Doors are Always Open

 Jean Zigani:  Wants a Better Life


When Jean Zigani, 43, came to the U.S. a year ago from Burkina Faso, he thought he would find work as a French teacher, with French being his native language. He had just finished his job in Burkina Faso as a school principal, and before that he was a teacher at an elementary school for 17 years. He had a high school degree, three years of college and professional experience.

He soon realized that the two hours a week of English that he received in college was not good enough to help him find employment in the U.S. that matched his skills.
Jean reluctantly took a job as a dishwasher.

When Center for Literacy (CFL) began offering ESL (English as a Second Language) classes in Southwest Philadelphia in October 2016 he was one of the first to sign up.
For eight months he balanced going to his high intermediate/advanced ESL class at Southwest CDC, with his dishwasher job in King of Prussia (a two hour one-way commute on SEPTA). Now, he has added to his schedule a part-time position in maintenance at Southwest CDC and was also accepted into an ESL Home Healthcare Aide Certification Program.

“I’m very happy to have the class and my new opportunities,” he said after an ESL class taught by Sister Janice Owen for CFL. “I came to the U.S. for a good life for my daughters and a better life for myself.” Jean and his wife, Zoenabo, have four daughters and live in Southwest Philadelphia. Two daughters go to John Bartram High, one goes to John M. Patterson Elementary and the youngest is five months old. Zoenabo was a teacher in Burkina Faso and took classes at CFL’s Community College of Philadelphia West location and now has her GED. ®
Jean grew up the youngest of seven children with a single mother taking care of them who had a small business selling food in the market. He is the only child in his family who moved from his country.

“Most of my friends did not get an education, they work as farmers. It is very hard in my country,” he said. According to World Food Programme, “Burkina Faso is characterised by semi-arid savannah and forests and is one of the world’s poorest countries. Around 45 percent of its rapidly growing population live on less than US $1.25 a day. Access to sanitation and electricity is poor, while insufficient investment in education and infrastructure make any development gains hard to maintain.”

He is grateful for the education that his daughters are getting at their U.S. public schools. When he was in Burkina Faso he taught 60-80 elementary school children in one classroom, without an aide or supplies.