Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The day they guarded my knickers with a shotgun!

May 27th

A thoroughly uneventful day today. Védaste and I are set to do an analysis of the secondary school census data. First we have to find it (on Béatrice’s computer, along with three viruses which my machine catches and kills).

Then we have to try to understand it – none of the grand totals match each other, and we have to do some creative thinking to understand what she’s done.

So I spent all day creating simple graphics. You may remember that we have 72000+ children in primary school. Well, we have 11000 in secondary schools, and loads of children in maternelles as well. The total school population is well over 90,000. The percentage of children going on to secondary school has risen from 8% to around 15% but is still far too low. Around 24% of primary children pass the end of year 6 exam and are entitled to go to secondary school, but there simply aren’t the places for them. In Muhanga we have two new lower secondary schools (tronc commun = Key Stage 3 only) just opening, but we need about another five. The only reason there isn’t a public scandal about the situation is because you have to pay to go to secondary school, and many families simply can’t afford to pay for more than one child to attend. So guess what – there are far more boys in the upper end of secondary schools than girls!

(Get off your soap box – Ed)

One of Védaste’s colleagues breezes in, sees my flash drive and borrows it without asking. When he brings it back there are 4 more viruses on it. By twelve o’clock I’m hungry. Védaste hasn’t got any money with him, so I feel obliged to take him out and treat him to lunch. No sign of Cathie – I take that as good news and that she’s already getting replies from her Canadian applications. I’ll find out on Thursday.

In the afternoon we pore over the figures again; this time we’re both getting tired and we find some serious errors in the figures themselves. (According to Béatrice’s data, our local secondary schools have as many teachers with Doctorate degrees as a small university….). By now its half past three and we pack it in for the day.

I take a moto to Shyogwe to see Stéphanie and arrive just before the end of school. I hide behind her new office so I don’t cause a major distraction, then get mobbed by the 2000+ children as they’re leaving. I shake hands and say hello to a hundred or so, then make a run for one of the classrooms.

With Stéphanie we discuss what she’s going to need in terms of teaching materials and equipment for the new classrooms; it’s very difficult doing this in a vacuum and while we can compile a wish list of what we’d like, we can’t price it up. But the Dutch need information quickly before they will release any of the money including the first 10,000 euros for the classrooms, so we’ve got to get a move on. We agree we’ll both talk to people and try to find out prices, and meet again next Monday.

I take a couple of pictures of her new office and staffroom which has just reached eaves level. There’s precarious looking scaffolding everywhere, and piles of sand and bricks dumped in the school yard for the children to jump in at playtimes.

By now it’s getting dark. I take a taxi vélo to the main road by which time night has completely fallen. There are no lights on in Nix’s bungalow at the orphanage as we pass. Her brother has been staying, up from Johannesburg, but has caught malaria while he’s been in Shyogwe. Poor old Nix, she’s having to look after a very sick brother. Shouldn’t happen to anyone!

Get home absolutely tired out at half past six after a two mile walk along the main road. Tom’s cooking again; I feel very guilty about not doing my share!

After tea we walk round to Karen’s house to pick up our laundry. (Long story; two heavy bags of clothes which Tom dropped off at Karen’s because they were too heavy to bring home on his moto). Good idea to walk because we’ve pigged out on fruit salad and mandazis and need the exercise! Get to Karen’s to find not only the two deaf girls there but also Christi and all her family. Our clean knickers are in their hired car, parked outside my bank, being looked after by two bank guards with shotguns!

An hour later, after chatting and being given another pile of DVDs to watch (Karen has a relative who writes reviews for magazines of DVDs and gets complimentary copies ahead of release on condition that they’re never sent anywhere else….) we all trudge up the hill to the car, pay off the guards, and collect our laundry. It weighs a ton!

By then it’s too late to do anything else but slump in our armchairs and read for half an hour before bed.

Best thing about today – getting a slippery hold on the secondary data.

Worst thing – we still haven’t completely finished any of our work!

No comments: